A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Hardaway’s World: ‘I Hate Gay People’
”First of all, I wouldn’t want him on my team,” former Miami Heat star Tim Hardaway said Wednesday. “Second of all, if he was on my team, I’d really distance myself from him. I don’t think he should be in the locker room when we are in the locker room.”
“I wouldn’t even be a part of that. . . . I’d ask for him to get traded. Something has to give. The majority of the players would ask for him to be traded, or they would want to get traded. Or just buy him out of his contract and let him go.”
But, Tim, you realize that’s bigotry and homophobia?
”I hate gay people,” Hardaway said in an interview on 790 The Ticket. “I let it be known. I don’t like gay people. I don’t like to be around gay people. I’m homophobic. I don’t like it. There shouldn’t be a world for that or [a place] in the United States for it. I don’t like it.”
There it is, ignorance and hatred without a filter, coming from one of the most popular players in Heat history. And Hardaway is hardly alone, even though he is the first to voice it so plainly since John Amaechi last week became the first former NBA player to come out of the closet.
”I’m actually tempted to laugh,” Amaechi said Wednesday. “Finally, someone who is honest. It is ridiculous, absurd, petty, bigoted and shows a lack of empathy that is gargantuan and unfathomable.”
“But it is honest. And it illustrates the problem better than any of the fuzzy language other people have used so far.”
You’ve heard the fuzzy language. LeBron James said he’d have trouble trusting a gay teammate. Wide receiver Andre Johnson said he wouldn’t want to share a shower with a gay teammate.
The 76ers’ Shavlik Randolph said he’d be fine as long as said player ”didn’t bring your gayness on me.” Hardaway, always blunt, turned mere discomfort into transparent hate, talking in a way that was shocking to hear.
And now you know why Amaechi is the first in the history of his sport — that’s a lot of players, folks — to announce he is gay.
Amaechi is grateful for Hardaway’s words, believe it or not. It gets the conversation going, and gets ugly things out in the light. Publicists have been pushing their athletes away from this uncomfortable question, trying to avoid the kind of trouble Hardaway’s words cause.
The Heat franchise is going to have to apologize for him today, and that’s just the start. If Hardaway, who apologized to WSVN-TV later Wednesday, according to The Associated Press, was still on television, he’d be fired. An apology doesn’t erase those words, doesn’t change those words.
Amaechi is the smartest athlete I’ve ever met in two decades in this business.
He is uniquely qualified to be an eloquent spokesman for his cause. But he is terrified and exhausted while fighting it during his book tour, at least in part because hatred is scary, heavy and awfully unpredictable.
And although Hardaway doesn’t speak for everybody, neither does Charles Barkley when he says this is simply a media issue.
”Hey, nobody cares John Amaechi is gay,” Barkley said. “I just find it humorous and amazing people think we care if someone is gay or not. It is always fun to hear these reporters say how we’d treat them in the locker room. Trust me, we’d treat reporters a lot worse than we treat a gay guy.”
But what would it be like? There’s a reason no active player in a male team sport has ever come out. There’s a reason that the one who does while active would cross the last uncrossed barrier in sports and become a modern-day Jackie Robinson. Barkley sounds naive.
”You don’t think we’ve all played with gay guys?” Barkley said. “Of course we have. It has never been an issue. America, the more I live in it, the more I realize how full of it we are. If we’re not bombing the wrong country, we’re not fixing hurricane-relief areas.
“America is homophobic. It’s so easy for [reporters] to say the other jocks won’t like it. America discriminates against gay people, but we’ve all played with gay people.”
There’s no way to know how an entire macho league would react to an outed gay athlete. There have been Internet rumors for months now that a current NBA player has already come out privately to his family.
The reaction if he is outed? It will be somewhere between Hardaway’s hate, Barkley’s indifference and Mavs owner Mark Cuban’s contention that the first gay NBA player will be a rich, pioneering hero. But Hardaway’s words give voice to at least one person’s truth:
The league isn’t quite ready for this.