Tim Hardaway, a nominee for theNaismith Basketball Hall of Fame, once had a reputation for hardline homophobia. But as his history is reviewed in anticipation, Hardaway’s surprising evolution into an ally of the LGBTQ community is coming into light.
Hardaway gained that reputation following comments he made 10 years ago during a radio interview when he was asked former NBA player John Amaechi’s decision to come out as gay.
“Well, you know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known,” Hardaway said ESPN personality Dan Le Batard’s show. “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.”
That statement led the NBA to ban him from its 2007 All-Star festivities, despite the fact that he was serving as a league ambassador.
Today, Hardaway says he deeply regrets that statement, and will likely never stop feeling bad about it. He told the Chicago Tribune:
When I said what I said … I still cringe at it when I think about it, and still hurts me deep inside that I said something like that because I gave people an opportunity to hurt people. 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.
But actions speak louder than words, and Hardaway has been making those count, too.
Since making that haunting homophobic statement, Hardaway has slowly become an ally and advocate for LGBTQ rights. He’s worked with the Trevor Project, signed a petition in favor of same-sex marriage in Florida, stood with politicians embattled over their support of LGBTQ people,
Perhaps most telling was Hardaway’s reaction to another NBA player coming out as gay — Jason Collins. This time, instead of spreading hate, he shared love. Collins told the Chicago Tribune that Hardaway called him up after he came out, just to show his support.
“I have to say, I get asked what was the most surprising [call] after making my announcement, and, yes, getting the call from the President and Oprah and all of that was surprising,” Collins said. “But getting a call from Tim Hardaway is right up there, because I didn’t know he had changed as a human being, as far as being what happened with his comments when Jon came out, and now becoming an ally.”
While this kind of personal transformation doesn’t play into deciding whether or not someone is inducted into the Hall of Fame, it’s deserving of recognition none the less.