Hate Has No Place

February 16, 2007

ESPN.com – NBA – Tim Hardaway says ‘I hate gay people’: “‘You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known,’ Hardaway said. ‘I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.'”

With those hateful words during a radio interview the other day, retired former NBA All Star, Tim Hardaway may have ended his post-basketball career. Hardaway was responding to questions about former NBA player John Amaechi’s recent declaration that he is gay. Last week Amaechi became the first former NBA player to admit that he is homosexual. Homophobia may well be the last barrier to overcome in team sports. This may be why no former NBA player until Amaechi and no current player has ever “come out of the closet”.

Tim Hardaway was slated to take part in several NBA All Star events this weekend in Las Vegas and has been making public appearances on behalf of the league this season. But those appearances for now will come to an end as NBA Commissioner David Stern said yesterday that Hardaway’s “views are not consistent with ours” and has barred Hardaway from making future appearances for the league. “It is inappropriate for him to be representing us given the disparity between his views and ours,” Stern added.

It should be noted that after the commissioner took action against him, Hardaway apologized for his words of hate against gays.

“As an African-American, I know all too well the negative thoughts and feelings hatred and bigotry cause. I regret and apologize for the statements that I made that have certainly caused the same kinds of feelings and reactions. I especially apologize to my fans, friends and family in Miami and Chicago. I am committed to examining my feelings and will recognize, appreciate and respect the differences among people in our society. I regret any embarrassment I have caused the league on the eve of one of their greatest annual events.”

But clearly it was too little too late. There is simply no room for that kind of intolerance in sports or society in general. As such a public relations inspired apology from Hardaway will not do at this time.

While John Amaechi has written a book about his life and experiences as a gay player and has finally come out, it is extremely unlikely that Amaechi is the NBA’s only gay player past or present. And it is quite possible that Tim Hardaway played with and showered with gay teammates whether he knew it or not. Which makes Hardaway’s statements about his hatred of gays all the more intolerant and ignorant.

Is Tim Hardaway the only person or athlete who feels this way about gays? Certainly he is not. Thousands if not millions of people stupidly hate for personal and sometimes religious reasons. For years gay men and women have paid a terrible price for that hatred and continue to. Ironically it is probably good that Hardaway was “honest” about his feelings. Out in the open this kind of prejudice and stupidity can be dealt with, discussed and perhaps eventually overcome.

I agree with the censure of Hardaway – for now. I hope that in time he will understand just how harmful his anti-gay words were and just how hollow his so-called apology was. I also hope that eventually he will see gay players and gay people as full-fledged human beings. When he does perhaps he can come back to the NBA in some capacity to help teach others that hatred and intolerence have no place in our society and that he learned – albeit the hard way – that hateful words and hateful hearts are indeed harmful and do have consequences.

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