Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.
Basketball, 2007. Of all the homophobic actions by sportspeople in recent years, this may have been the stupidest. Just days after former NBA player John Amaechi came out of the closet, former NBA star Tim Hardaway told radio host Dan Le Batard he would not welcome a gay teammate (audio of the gay part of the interview after the jump):
First of all I wouldn't want him on my team. And second of all, if he was on my team, you know, I would really distance myself from him because, uh, I don't think that is right. I don't think that he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room, and it's just a whole lot of other things and I wouldn't even be a part of that. But stuff like that is going on and there's a lot of other people I hear that are like that and still in the closet and don't want to come out of the closet, but you know I just leave that alone.
The comment was bad enough, but Hardaway then took it a step further to a place where the NBA and others couldn't follow him:
Well, you know 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. So yeah, I don't like it.
While John Rocker will always be the standard bearer for homophobia, Tim Hardaway became the new poster child. The NBA severed all relationships with him, and the CBA fired him from his position as Chief Basketball Operations Advisor or the Indiana Alley Cats. Hardaway said in an interview later that year that the controversy was the biggest bump on the road of his life.
The moment gave a wake-up call to people about homophobia. People who were mildly homophobic suddenly had the word "hate" staring at them, and many of them were uncomfortable with it. The word game athletes and others the opportunity to say something positive about gay people and reflect on their own homophobia.
Soon after the fallout from the radio interview, Hardaway worked with local gay rights groups in south Florida. And just this year he went to El Paso, Texas, to fight against an effort to recall city officials who had created same-sex domestic partner benefits. It's been a positive turn-around for a man who just four years ago was considered the face of homophobia in sports.
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