Retired professional basketball player John Amaechi is the star of a 20-second public service announcement (PSA) released today in the US by the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to mark the beginning of the 2007-08 professional basketball season.

The PSA is the fifth installment of GLAAD’s new public education campaign that encourages viewers to “Be an Ally a Friend.”

The British-born athlete made history in February when he became the first former NBA player to come out publicly.

Over a six-year period, Amaechi played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz.

In his bestselling autobiography, Man in the Middle, he describes his journey from being an overweight kid in England to a revered Penn State basketball player to his years playing professional basketball, all while discovering his sexuality and being a closeted gay man.

“John has experienced firsthand how homophobia in the sports world can prevent athletes from living their lives honestly and openly,” GLAAD Director of Sports Media Ted Rybka said in a release.

“John’s message has the power to awaken people to the realities of what it’s like to be a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender athlete.”

GLAAD’s “Be an Ally a Friend” PSA campaign features 22 public figures from television, film and sports.

The adverts encourage people to be allies to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and to help combat homophobia, directing viewers to resources at GLAAD.org.

GLAAD is releasing a new 20- or 30-second version of the PSA approximately every two weeks to be aired through broadcast collaborations with Access Hollywood, national cable networks such as Fox Reality, GSN, IFC, Lifetime, The N, Sci Fi Channel and Sundance Channel; local cable systems and network affiliates; online at LiveVideo, YouTube, AOL Video and MySpace; and others to be announced.

Chrys Hudson © 2007 GayWired.com; All Rights Reserved.