On the way to work this morning, a couple of guys in their early 20s were reading the paper and talking sports while riding Metro. Because it’s the Friday before a holiday weekend, there were fewer people on the train, so I was able to hear what the two were saying.
As they read the sports section of the Express, one of them commented about Tim Hardaway, the former NBA player who went on an anti-gay rip earlier this week during a radio interview. I was curious about what they would say to one another. “Well, you know,” one of them said before changing the subject to the Washington Wizards, “there are a lot people who feel that way.”
The guy was right: there are plenty of people out there who share Hardaway’s views. “You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known,” he said during the radio interview. “I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people. I’m homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.” Had he been having the same conversation with his friends or family, he likely would have used the word “faggot,” along with a lot of profanity.
I’m still not sure how to react to words like that. One on hand, and I’ve written about this before, I’m stunned that a black man could have so much bigotry in his heart, given the civil rights struggle African-Americans and their allies have waged over the last 60 years. The words that came out of Hardaway’s mouth were filled with hate, plain and simple, and are no better than what one would expect to hear from a member of the Klu Klux Klan.
What’s worse was the retreat architected by Hardaway’s publicist, who released the following in a statement from Hardaway:
“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.”
I’m sorry, Tim. I call bull on that. It’s like my Dad used to say: You’re only sorry because you got caught.
But, at the same time, I recognize that homosexuality is a very difficult issue for some people because it crosses religious bounds. But I have yet to see a major religious tradition where respect and love are restricted to those who hold a certain view. Did Jesus ever say, Love thy neighbor, unless he or she is gay? Still, there were plenty of people who justified bigotry and racism in the last century on religious grounds, and there are a lot of times in this century when I think we, as a society, have made progress.
And then a person like Tim Hardaway serves us notice that society has a long way to go. It’s a shame, really, especially to the generations of African Americans who came before Hardaway – brave people who endured aggression, humiliation, injuries and even death to fight bigotry, all so that Hardaway could earn millions and then stand up and be as big a bigot as ever.