John Amaechi is not your typical basketball star. The former center for Utah, Orlando and Cleveland is the first NBA alumnus to openly declare that he’s gay, and now he’s combining sports and cultural politics in another sense by serving as Amnesty International’s sports ambassador to this summer’s Beijing Olympics.

In an interview published Saturday in the UK newspaper The Guardian, Amaechi suggests that the role of the Olympic athlete extends beyond the sports arena and urges contenders with concerns about China’s human rights record to “acknowledge that being an ambassador for human rights in China is the most Olympian thing to do.”

The Guardian:

Amaechi, who last year became the first NBA star to come out as gay, contends that the Olympic charter compels athletes to take a moral stance. “I’ve read the Olympic charter and when you read it, it is quite clear that it expects from athletes something more than being hugely talented beasts of burden,” he said.

“It expects that sport be more than entertainment of the masses. It demands that they are intended to be a tool for wholesale change in the lives of individuals and groups.” He called on the IOC to do more to pressure China into reform. “If you have the power to make the world better then that’s something you should do, particularly when it is directly in line with your charter. To ignore those ideals so as not to embarrass a host compromises the movement.”

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