Something Has to Give, Timmy
Hardaway’s homophobic comments self-oppressive, yet reflect the need for change
As his decidedly anti-amourus caveman-like comments on Valentines Day might suggest, it is possible that Tim Hardaway really has been living under a rock for a few years.
Days after former NBA player John Amaechi (left) came out of the closet right before the release of his new book Man In The Middle, retired Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway sounded off with the following comments when asked how he would have reacted to having a gay teammate: “I hate gay people, so I let it be known. 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.”
Hardaway made the comments while a phone-in guest on host Dan LeBatard’s Miami radio show. At the time, the 5-time all-star was in Las Vegas working with NBA Cares, a community-outreach program which works with various groups like Read to Achieve, Habitat for Humanity, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria(GBC). Hardaway was a five-time all-star, one of the decade’s best point guards in the 1990’s, and played for team USA. He also had a history of philanthropy; for many years Hardaway would donate $20 to cancer research for every assist he racked up in the NBA (Hardaway is 12th on the NBA’s all-time assist leaders list).
It is sad to see a once-great athlete, a hero to many kids especially in the African American community, shoot himself in the foot and ruin any career he may have had in the public eye because of his small-minded, bigoted personal views. Even sadder perhaps, is that it is likely that Hardaway’s views are not altogether rare in professional sports.
Last week, Amaechi himself wrote in ESPN Magazine that “Homophobia is a ballplayer posture, akin to donning a ‘game face’, wearing flashy jewelry or driving the perfect black Escalade.” A well spoken, intelligent athlete, Ameachi arrived at the conclusion that ‘ballers’ didn’t really hate gays, but rather used ‘gaybashing’ as a sort of crutch to empower their ideal of masculinity. One has to wonder, though, how easy it would be to tell the difference were Amaechi out of the closet while still in that small league community.
A member of the Molokai gay community was kind enough to stop by and reflect on the dynamic of homophobia in a small populous. “That basketball player is just an idiot, and I don’t worry about people like that. I think a good rule for everyone to live by is that you don’t need to like everyone, but every person is entitles to a certain amount of respect.
“We’re very lucky because there’s never really been a serious problem here. On Molokai, people are very easy going at work, and in the neighborhoods, with a few small exceptions. Like, you might not see a lot of openly gay hunters, and a few years ago, there was a Mahu show on Halloween, which is always a lot of fun, that was picketed by members of First Assembly Church. But overall, people here don’t get bothered, and that’s a very good thing.”
Some good may come of Hardaway's comments; hopefully, people's curiosity will be piqued and they will read Amaechi’s book. Man in the Middle is a thoughtful and forthright retrospective about being in an oppressive environment. It’s reading by a wide audience may provoke a debate in the population at large about facing homophobic issues in professional sports, an issue that has too long been ignored.
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