Melbourne United’s Isaac Humphries has shared publicly that he is gay, becoming the only openly gay player in a top-tier men’s basketball league.
Humphries made the announcement on Wednesday (AEDT) via a video posted across his social media channels, which showed the moment he shared the news to his teammates.
“We, as athletes, as professional athletes, have a responsibility to set examples for people,” Humphries said in the video.
“The truth is there are so many people in other worlds that are struggling every single day and don’t know how to get up, [and] don’t know how to exist. I know how that feels, and I want to represent those people.
“That’s my goal behind this: make sure people know you can be whatever you want, no matter who you are or what you do. You can be big Ice and be gay, and you can still be a great basketball player and be gay. You can do whatever you want. It has nothing to do with your sexuality, or who you are, or who you’re meant to be, or who you’re expected to be. I just want to be myself. I discovered this is my purpose in life, and I’m gonna give it my best go.”
Humphries is the starting centre for United in Australia’s NBL, and is averaging 12 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. He’s coming off a 20-point performance against the South East Melbourne Phoenix, and currently leads the league in blocked shots.
“It was an extreme weight lifted from my shoulders,” Humphries told ESPN.
“I was very nervous and very scared to have that conversation but, once I got everyone’s reaction and everyone was very congratulatory and proud, I didn’t feel so worried anymore. About anything. Because it went so well, I’m not worried about the world responding anymore.
“Being a role model is a big reason why I’m doing this. I’ve always wanted to be somebody that people look up to, and seen as a good example. I take my platform in society very seriously and I always wanted to try to help people. Inevitably, I can help a lot of people and be someone they can look to as an example of someone who can be gay in sport, be gay in basketball.”
The 24-year-old is only the second male basketball player to say he is gay while playing in a top-tier league; the first since NBA player Jason Collins, who did so in 2013.
“I would love to have had more versions of me to show me that it was OK to be gay in basketball,” Humphries said.
“If I had a role model like that, or somebody to look at, I’m sure I wouldn’t have gone down the path of thinking taking my life was the only option out. I’m coming to learn that, when you’re different and unique, and you don’t see representation, it’s really hard to think it can happen. It’s really hard to think you can exist in that space when there’s no-one else doing it.
“I know that happens in a lot of different avenues in the world, and it’s slowly getting better. It’s just my chance to make sport get better in that sense and leave my mark in that way, and make sure others had role models in the way I wish I had.”
The news was met with overwhelming support from the United organisation, Humphries’ teammates, and the NBL.
“For Isaac to feel comfortable to come forward with this and start this new process for him, while at our club — and he’s only been around for a short period of time — there’s pride within the club that we’ve created an environment where he feels safe, and where he feels like he wants to be himself and is going to be supported along that journey,” United’s captain, Chris Goulding, told ESPN.
“It was a round of applause when he finished his speech; guys embraced him. He touched on the fact that professional sporting environments, especially men’s teams, are not usually an environment that’s super inviting of living a different way to what the majority of people within that sport do.
“Oftentimes there may have been jokes or things that made Isaac uncomfortable, but now that everyone knows and everyone’s embracing him, we know this is the way forward. This is how you educate. This is how you have acceptance. This is how people blaze a trail and become bigger than the game, which we hope Isaac will be.
“Pretty proud of the club in that regard. But, I want to be proud in two-three weeks time how we’ve embraced it, and in six months’ time, and a year’s time; I’m more excited about how we will feel toward Isaac and potentially other gay basketballers in the future more than right this second.”
United’s CEO, Nick Truelson, said: “Our whole organisation is just so proud of Isaac.
“Today is an incredible step in Isaac’s journey, and we as a club are wholeheartedly supportive of him. Not only as a member of our club, but as a person. This is a momentous occasion for him personally, but also for male sport on a global scale.
“Our purpose at Melbourne United is to use the power of basketball to enrich the lives of our community, and this includes a strong focus on inclusion and diversity. We are thrilled that Isaac has identified our club as a safe space in which he can be his true self.”
In the video, Humphries spoke about his mental health and his state of mind from hiding his sexuality.
“A few years ago, I fell into a very dark place, a very lonely place,” Humphries said to the room of United players, coaches, and executives.
“I couldn’t be who I am, and I attempted to take my life. The main reason behind me becoming so low and being in that point is because I was very much struggling with my sexuality and coming to terms with the fact that I’m gay.
“I hated it about myself. I was disgusted at myself. I thought that I could not be that person within our environment, within a basketball environment. It wasn’t until I was in a community that’s full of pride and happiness and joy; it was a big wake-up call for me.
“But then came the big question mark of how do I be a basketball player, and how do I join a new team when I’ve finally come to terms with this about myself and I don’t want to hide who I am anymore. I decided that, if I’m going to join a team, that I’m going to come out publicly, and just make sure people know that you can live. And you don’t have to hide, just because you’re an athlete.”
The native of NSW played two seasons of college basketball at the University of Kentucky and has spent time in the NBA, NBL, NBA G-League, and Europe over his professional career.
Shortly after the announcement, the NBA released a statement supporting Humphries’ decision: “We are proud and grateful to Isaac for sharing his story. We know the real impact his honesty and courage will have on many others. Isaac has our unwavering respect and support.”
Openly LGBTQIA+ athletes are still rare in male-dominated sports leagues. In 2021, Carl Nassib became the first openly gay player in the NFL; the same year, Luke Prokop also said he was gay, becoming the first NHL player to do so. In Australia, Humphries joins footballer Josh Cavallo as the only openly gay male athletes across the country’s major sporting leagues.
“We love Isaac here at the club,” United coach Dean Vickerman said.
“For him to feel comfortable to be his true self here is great, and we couldn’t be more proud of him.”
“We can’t underestimate how difficult this must have been for Isaac, but I’m really excited by the fact that he can be completely open and honest with his teammates and now ultimately, the world. It’s huge.”
“Isaac has also made it clear to me and the rest of the team that while this is a massive occasion for him off the court, his focus remains on the court. We will continue to support Isaac however we can, while also pursuing another NBL championship with this group.”
NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said Humphries’ announcement shows the NBL continues to be a place where players, coaches and staff feel safe and supported.
“As a League we celebrate people from all walks of life and embrace and foster diversity and inclusion,” Loeliger added.
“Basketball is a game that brings people together, and it is no more evident than today.
“Isaac has always been a role model and leader. He is someone we’ve always held in the highest regard.
“Isaac has conducted himself admirably today and over the course of his career, in dealing with what has clearly been a significant cause of distress and consternation for him personally.”
Humphries is next in action for United (5-5) on Thursday evening against his former team, the Adelaide 36ers.
NBL Melbourne United player Isaac Humphries announces he is gay
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