It’s been 10 years this week since former NBA superstar Tim Hardaway uttered those infamous words: “I hate gay people.”
I’ve often said that moment, in conjunction with the widely supported coming out of former NBA player John Amaechi a week earlier, was “the tipping point” of the LGBT sports movement. Within one week we saw the sports world embrace a gay NBA player who had had some success in the league ... and totally reject a homophobic perennial All-Star.
For those who don’t remember, Hardaway was disinvited from the NBA All-Star game that year. The CBA, which he was trying to resurrect, told him to go away, and he became a pariah in the sports world.
Now an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons, Hardaway is opening up again about that terrible week a decade ago and his journey since.
“When I said what I said . . . I still cringe at it when I think about it, and [it] still hurts me deep inside that I said something like that because I gave people an opportunity to hurt people,” Hardaway told the Washington Post. “That wasn’t right . . . each and every day when I talk to kids today and they bring it up to me or somebody brings it up to me, I say that was a very big mistake on my part.
“It hurts me to this day, what I said, and you know what? It’s going to hurt me for the rest of my life, because I’m not that type of person. I feel bad about it, and I’m always going to feel bad about it.”
Once reality set in for Hardaway a decade ago, he went about understanding his mistake and making amends for it. He visited LGBT organizations. He talked to youth. Over time he came to champion equality for LGBT people in El Paso, where he played college basketball for UTEP, and in Florida, where he played for the Miami Heat.
Hardaway is the ultimate redemption story. A decade later you simply cannot say he is the same man who spewed those hateful words that hurt the LGBT community so deeply. We wish him nothing but the best in his coaching pursuits. We know he will continue to preach words of love and inclusion forever forward.