Former US basketball star John Amaechi has become the first openly gay athlete to sign an endorsement deal with a mainstream company.

HeadBlade.Inc announced yesterday that they have signed the former centre for Cleveland, Orlando and Utah to endorse their popular head-shaving razor.

The deal is thought to be a multiyear agreement, but financial terms have not been disclosed.

In a statement Amaechi, 36, said: “I think it’s fantastic that HeadBlade has approached me to endorse the brand.”

Despite retiring three years ago, Amaechi has now made headlines twice in 2007.

He became the first openly gay NBA player when he came out through his autobiography.

Man in the Middle was released in February. The book is currently on The New York Times Best Seller List.

It is thought that many athletes stay in the closet precisely because they may not be able to get endorsement deals worth millions of pounds.

On explaining why they had approached Amaechi, HeadBlade chief executive Todd Greene said:

“John Amaechi is the newest face of the brand because he embodies many of the qualities representative of a HeadBlader.

“He is a man comfortable in his own skin and he’s not afraid to go against the grain.”

Amaechi was raised in Stockport, England by his English mother, but moved to Ohio to play highschool basketball.

Since his retirement Amaechi has returned to his British roots.

He has worked as a broadcaster for channel Five, covering NBA games once a week.

In 2006 Amaechi came out of retirement to help the English national basketball team win a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.