The Swiss 3×3 basketball star Marco Lehmann has come out as gay, revealing that he’s been living a painful double life throughout his sporting career.
Lehmann, 27, has played full-court basketball professionally since 2012. He now represents Switzerland on the international stage, where he is considered one of the best shooters on the 3×3 basketball circuit.
He recently opened his heart in an article for FIBA, the official website for the International Basketball Federation, explaining that he couldn’t wait until retirement to be his true self.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Over the years Lehmann played seven seasons across 20 countries, always saying he didn’t have a girlfriend because he was focused on his career. His dedication to the game made him the second-best player in Switzerland – “and yet I wasn’t happy,” he admitted.
“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.”
Explaining why he kept his silence for so long, Lehmann related several examples of the homophobia he’d experienced from coaches and players, which constantly reinforced the sense that to be gay was “taboo” in team sports.
He recalled how one coach berated the team for “playing like gays,” and a fellow player on a tour bus described homosexuality as “a sickness”.
“[Homosexuals] should kill themselves,” he heard them say. “Imagine you have to play with somebody like this on your team?”
For a time he was able to convince himself that he loved basketball so much that he should hide who he was for the sake of the game – until December 2019, when he hit rock bottom.
“I started to have emotional outbursts, tears, cold sweat running down my back. And for what? Just thinking about the next practice,” he said. “I just couldn’t stand the thought of having to switch from my home personality to my competitive one once more.”
Those days are now firmly behind him as Lehmann joins a handful of gay professional basketball players to come out while still playing, including Jason Collins, Derrick Gordon and Uri Kokia.
The time has come, he said, to simply be happy and enjoy his hard-earned career without the fear of living a double life.
“Starting today I will be Marco Lehmann, gay 3×3 basketball player,” he declared. “And if you’ll excuse me, I’m trying to win the World Tour and take Switzerland to the 2024 Olympics.”