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Swiss basketball star Marco Lehmann, 27, has come out of the closet. The announcement comes just one month after Lehmann played at the 3×3 World Tour finals in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“This is for all the people who do not want to live a double life anymore, those who live in a system where they don’t even exist,” Lehmann opens his essay for the international basketball federation’s website. “This is for the future generations so they can live a free sporting life without hiding. Not gonna lie, this is also for me so I can live free of this burden.”
Lehmann goes on to detail a fantasy of scoring the winning point in a game just before the buzzer, and walking over to kiss his boyfriend. He imagines the world reacting with shock, and the sight of him kissing his boyfriend overshadowing his success in the game.
“Until today, I had not come out yet,” he clarifies. “My family, my friends, my 3×3 teammates have known about it for a while, but that’s it.”
He then admits that for the past two years, he’s struggled with the toll being closeted took on his mental health.
“For some time, I even cracked the Top 15 in the world rankings. I was definitely living the dream,” he writes. “And yet I wasn’t happy. I had been switching personalities for so long now, that it was affecting my mental health. Every week the same old thing: my boyfriend would drive me to the airport and the minute I would go through security, the happy gay man in a relationship turned into the emotionless pro athlete, who didn’t want to talk about his personal life.”
Lehmann says he began experiencing regular panic attacks over his closeted status. He would lose his temper and have difficulty concentrating while on the court. He felt alone and scared. Worse, he would have to endure homophobic comments from other players in the league.
“It’s like in team sports, there are no gay men,” he says in frustration. “Being gay in that setting is a taboo. People don’t talk about it and don’t stand behind it and this has to stop NOW. Because quite frankly this is why a lot of young guys quit playing team sports when they discover they’re gay.”
For Lehmann though, that ends now.
“All the sleepless nights. All the moments of fear and self-doubt have led to this,” he writes. “The time has come for me to enjoy the rest of my career without having to live a double life or hide my true self. And hopefully help other gay athletes in Switzerland and worldwide. It changes nothing if after a big win, a player hugs his girlfriend or his boyfriend. In my opinion, an athlete can only perform at the highest level if he is at peace with himself. And as of today, I will be.”
“I am Marco Lehmann, 3×3 Basketball player and gay,” he concludes. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m trying to win a World Tour and bring Switzerland to the 2024 Olympics.”
Proud to have you on our team, Marco.