Earlier today in a Sports Illustrated expose, the NBA’s Jason Collins announced that he was gay, and the tremendous support from other professional players has seemed to outweigh the condemnation so far (again — so far). Within a few hours, over 40 players tweeted their support for Collins including NBA players Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Baron Davis, Steve Nash, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Love, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, and John Amaechi.
As national media, blogs, and twitter exploded with reaction to Collins, Tim Hardaway’s comments today were barely circulated.
The former NBA all-star is in a unique position to aid the cause of Jason Collins and LGBTQ equality, and it is perplexing that the 2013 Hardaway has not received more attention. Of course, the 2007 Tim Hardaway famously said: “I hate gay people. So I let it be known”.
“I’m happy for him. I know he hid it for a long time, but now he doesn’t have to hide it anymore. He is who he is and everybody’s got to accept him for who he is.”…
Hardaway told the Palm Beach Post that what he said in 2007 was terrible.
“…It was bad and I live with it every day. It was like a bully going to beat up people every day. … They’re people just like we’re people. Let them live their lives just like we live our lives.”
Hardaway’s support for Collins does not come as a surprise as he has championed LGBTQ rights in recent years. While referencing UTEP’s racially historic 1966 national championship team Hardaway said to a crowd in 2011:
“It’s not right to not let the gays and lesbians have equal rights here. If I know El Paso, like they came together when the 1966 team won a championship and Don Haskins started those five [black] guys, I know the city will grow and understand that gays and lesbians need equal rights.”
Hardaway also had a message for anti-gay crusaders:
“I would say grow up and catch up with the times.”
Catching up with the times was a process for Hardaway. His transformation was ignited by well-deserved denunciations and real-life consequences for his original comments, but the seeds of Hardaway’s change included introspection.
Back in 2007, Hardaway reflected on his interactions with members of the LGBTQ community:
“I had no idea how much I hurt people. A lot of people.”
While sports media likes to cling to heroes and villains, Hardaway has thrown a monkey wrench into those lazy narratives. As advocates for equality support and celebrate Collins, the redemption of Tim Hardaway should not go unrecognized. Said sports writer Dave Zirin in 2011:
“Hardaway’s unglamorous activism in 100-degree heat on an August day is commendable. It brings us closer to a sports world where the sexual orientation of athletes is little more than a detail. For that Hardaway deserves recognition, if not praise.”
The great irony is that Hardaway has worked to transform his own hate, but many have not changed their previous hatred for him.
Now Hardaway is imploring others with bigotry in their hearts to “accept [Jason Collins] for who he is”.
Perhaps that valuable message would be that much clearer if Tim Hardaway was accepted for who he has become.
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