NBA Star Dwight Howard Addresses Gay Rumors: 'I Don't Wanna Wear No Mask'

Dwight Howard, a center for the Memphis Grizzlies, has addressed rumors about his sexuality in an interview FS1's Kristine Leahy.

"I'm not gay," Howard, the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit by a man who claimed they had a romantic relationship, said on Fair Game with Kristine Leahy. "It's a lot of people who are and they have to hide, and there's people who have mental issues and they have to hide. There's people who have different problems in life and they have to hide. They have to put on the mask every day, and it's like, I don't wanna wear no mask, I just wanna be."

Howard, who previously played for the Washington Wizards, admitted the allegations against him "hurt at first."

"It ended up being a situation that was... it went viral. People were talking about it, and it upset me because I didn't even know who the person was," he said. "Why would somebody who I never met, never had any contact with, make up a whole story about me. I saw all the hate, the pure hate, from people that I've never met before, just pile up everywhere I went."

dwight howard
Dwight Howard warms up before the Washington Wizards take on the Oklahoma City Thunder at Capital One Arena on November 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. Will Newton/Getty Images

In March, Masin Elije, an openly gay man, filed a suit against Howard, alleging the two dated but that Elije broke it off because Howard was seeing other men and trans women. Elije further claimed Howard and his pastor, Calvin Simmons, tried to silence Elije with a non-disclosure agreement and "hush money."

Eljie first went public with his claims in a series of tweets from November 2018.

Fast forward, I’m finally face to face with Dwight! And after that day, from my understanding we had a understanding. So I’ll just upload this screen record here just in case his team decides to lie. (Ain’t no girl gon ask you this)

— 𝐒ᴏᴠᴇʀᴇĪɢɴ (@MasinElije) November 25, 2018

"I was afraid to speak but today my life was threatened after I was sexually harassed, threatened and manipulated, by someone I respected, my ex boyfriend NBA player Dwight Howard," Eljie posted, "and his camp also ""catfished"" by his disrespectful ass PASTOR.

Calvin works for Dwight and Calvin begun to get irate, disrespectful and homophobic as I continued to deny his “hush money” and said I wasn’t signing the NDA! He tried to insult my intelligence telling me Dwight doesn’t know me and “I never spoke to dwight” Despite me meeting him

— 𝐒ᴏᴠᴇʀᴇĪɢɴ (@MasinElije) November 25, 2018

Howard, 33, has continually maintained he never met Elije. But the gossip and negativity he was subjected to online was oddly liberating, Howard says.

"I went through a situation last year that kind of, um, just, it really just set me free," he told Leahy. "I think that liberated me, because I saw how a lot of people would feel, whether they're gay or they're straight, or whether they have issues, people are afraid to be who they are," he continued. "They're afraid to just step out and be, like you said, because they're afraid of what other people might say or think about them. And so that situation made me realize, you not like this, but just be you, be free."

Howard is the father of an 11-year-old boy, Braylon, by Magic cheerleader Royce Reed.

He was also the subject of rumors after appearing in drag in a 2011 appearance on the Spanish TV show El Hormiguero

The full two-part interview with Leahy will air July 17 and 18 on FS1.