Kissimmee – An openly gay St. Cloud man kicked out of a basketball league for being HIV-positive is turning his experience into a chance to educate about the realities of HIV and how it spreads.
Dakota Basinger, 21, has received national media attention and says he’s been contacted by people from all over the world who relate to his story.
On April 13, a part-time parks and recreation employee named Dale Boston, 30, approached Basinger during the second half of a league playoff game and asked to speak to him privately. Boston asked Basinger if he was HIV-positive and when Basinger confirmed that he was, Basinger asked him to leave the game for the safety of the other players.
“So I walked out,” Basinger said. “I left the game, felt like crap. I was pretty upset.”
On April 17, after the story broke and blew up in social media, Boston resigned from his position with the city of St. Cloud.
All parties involved—the city, Basinger, and Boston—agree on those facts. But when asked about the events leading up to Boston’s conversation with Boston, the stories get hazy.
Basinger and Boston—who have been in touch since the incident and are on good terms—agree that Boston is not to blame. Both men point the finger at Jamie Paul, a St. Cloud recreation and leisure services coordinator. Boston says Paul pulled him aside during the basketball game and informed him of Basinger’s HIV status. He says Paul was “gossiping” and Boston called it “unprofessional disclosed information.”
Boston also said Paul told him to wait for further instruction, and then never contacted him, leaving him unsure what he should do.
“My boss knows I’m a take charge kind of person and I think she used that to her advantage,” Boston said. “I think she had a problem with [Basinger] from his younger days.”
Watermark contacted Paul but she refused to comment and directed questions to Arin Thrower, Kissimmee’s public information officer. Thrower said she’s not sure how Boston found out Basinger’s HIV status but believes it was through social media.
“For whatever reason, Dale told Mr. Basinger he would not be able to play in that game, which was of course incorrect and something that shouldn’t have happened,” Thrower said, adding that Boston “acted independently.”
However, Thrower was unable to confirm whether Paul was even present at the game.
“The way they said I acted independently is false. False, false, false,” Boston said. “I feel horrible. I think I was the scapegoat for the whole city.”
Thrower said the city has called Basinger to apologize and authorities are taking steps to make sure nothing like this happens again.
“The city is making sure all of our employees understand that if they are unclear on what our policies and procedures are, they need to go to a supervisor before they take any action on their own,” she said.
Basinger’s mother was present at the game and the athlete said his she has been in contact with an attorney. Thrower said as of press time, no legal action has been taken against the city.
In the meantime, Dakota Basinger—who only found out he’s HIV-positive at the beginning of April —sees the incident as a chance to do something worthwhile.
“All my life I’ve dreamed of touching as many lives as I can,” Basinger said. “People with HIV, being bullied, being raised by a single mother. I want to bring awareness and education. It sucks that this had to happen for me to reach more lives.”
Basinger said he hopes to use media exposure to teach people how HIV spreads and how to protect themselves.
When asked what he would say whoever is responsible for having him removed from the basketball game, Basinger replied, “Educate yourself. Learn more before you speak.”
From our media partner Watermark