Just days after winning Israel’s Martin Luther King Jr. Award for his philanthropic work, Amar’e Stoudemire found himself under fire for saying he would be uncomfortable playing basketball alongside an openly gay teammate.
The comments were delivered in an interview with the Israeli website Walla Sport. Stoudemire was asked how comfortable he would feel with a gay teammate.
“I’m going to shower across the street, make sure my change of clothes are around the corner,” Stoudemire said. “And I’m going to drive… Take a different route to the gym.”
When the Israeli interviewer asked if he were joking, Stoudemire said, “I mean, there’s always a truth within a joke.”
A number of other players were prompted with the same question in the Walla Sport clip. Others indicated that they would have no problem with a gay teammate.
In 2012, Stoudemire was fined $50,000 by the N.B.A. for using a homophobic slur in on Twitter.
He later apologized, saying: “I am a huge supporter of civil rights for all people. I am disappointed in myself for my statement to a fan. I should have known better and there is no excuse.”
Stoudemire signed a two-year contract to play with Israel’s Hapoel Jerusalem team last year. For him, the move to Israel was not strictly professional, though. Stoudemire is a Hebrew Israelite — meaning he views the Torah as an historic record of African Americans and sees the land of Israel as part of his ancestral heritage.
In announcing his move to Israel last year, he wrote in a message to fans: “The Scripture speaks about Jerusalem as a holy place, and I can feel that whenever I’m in the city. My whole journey with reuniting with the Holy Land has always been important.”