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Penn State Basketball: John Amaechi Offers Insight

by on October 15, 2012 11:35 PM

Friday night, John Amaechi sat alone inside Rec Hall reminiscing about his time at Penn State, a time that basketball was still played on the west end of campus and a time when Amaechi’s name was not yet known to the world.

Amaechi attended Penn State, where he was a two-time first team Academic All-American selection under head coach Bruce Parkhill, graduating in 1995. For Amaechi, he is most publicly known as the first former NBA player to come out, his announcement causing a stir in a league predominantly known for males who could never be “too manly,” bringing to light issues of intolerance and diversity across the sporting world.

Amaechi has since dedicated his time to a myriad of things, including the ABC Foundation, in Manchester, England which encourages children to be active in sports and their communities. Amaechi has built youth sport centers throughout the United Kingdom.

Speaking on Penn State’s campus Monday night, Amaechi addressed what he felt were fundamental issues of American sport, some of which that were directly in play with the Penn State scandal.

The following are some of his remarks over the hour-and-a-half-long lecture.

“If we’re going to make people into great, big, massive giants, we have to make sure they know how not to crush the people that are around them,” Amaechi said, using his almost 7-foot frame as a physical metaphor to describe the perceived size of those with immense fame.

"There is a penalty that comes with being big; you have to be spatially aware. Even accidentally, I can’t do things that other people don’t even think about, because I’m a giant, and I know it.

The problem that we’ve got is that we don’t teach people how to become good giants. Sometimes we even teach them that we can be giants when it suits them but little when it doesn't."

"The thing I stand by, you can’t be a person of part-time principle,” Amaechi said. “You can’t be the man or woman that makes the right decision 99 percent of the time and then the 1 percent of the time when it’s truly vital to be a person of principle, you aren’t.

"I’ve been looking at Penn State from afar,” Amaechi said. “And it has been really difficult. I know that it has been difficult for you here, but it has been quite bizarre, as so much of who I am is wrapped up in the idea that I went to Penn State.

"I think that Penn State football proved not to be principled this time, because they did, at such a vital time, the wrong thing,” he said.

"Some people think it was for the benefit of Penn State, I do not think it was for the benefit of Penn State. I think if it had come out when I was at this university, which is when it would have come out, it would have been devastating.

"But had it come out at that time, because the people involved made the tiny decisions that led to this being brought to the surface, it would have been a principled thing where people would have a really hard time saying, ‘Penn State wasn’t transparent, Penn State protected its program, Penn State put money in front of people.’ It would have been a very difficult meme to build.

"But if you wait a decade, If you tell someone they can’t shower on campus anymore. Then all of a sudden, the idea that something was more important than the lives of young people is the only adequate idea to come up with.

"That’s not what Penn State stands for, and I don’t think it is what Penn State stood for. I still get goosebumps when I hear, ‘We are Penn State.'

"Penn State can be the place it once was, if we decide to live big so that we notice the small interactions that can change people’s lives. That is when we can start anew.”

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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