No Such Nonsense

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gays in the NBA

Last week, came word that John Amaechi is gay. There are many possible reactions to this piece of news, but I'd wager the most common would be:

a) Who the hell is John Amaechi?
b) Why should I care if he is gay?

Well, the answer to the first is ultimately the answer to the second. See, John Amaechi is a retired NBA player - and the first player associated with the NBA to ever come out of the closet publicly. Hence his big book deal and all the surrounding buzz.

Now since this announcement, most NBA players have fallen into 2 camps in their comments - either wan 'good for him' endorsements and 'who the hell is John Amaechi?' evasions. And it is plausibly true that many players barely remember the guy. He was a role player, never anything close to a star. This revelation, and the book, is by far the most media attention the guy has ever garnered.

But now a guy who was an actual NBA star has something really interesting to say. Enter Tim Hardaway: “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’m homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.”

Setting aside the fact that Mr. Hardaway apparently believes that being in the United States is somehow different than being in the world, this statement is probably the most important one to be made in the wake of Amaechi's announcement. Why? Because it shows us that within professional sports, homophobia is so pervasive and accepted that Hardaway would feel comfortable espousing the position on a radio talk show. It shows us the environment Amaechi played in. It shows us why so few players are willing to come out, retired or not.

Hardaway continued: “First of all, I wouldn’t want him on my team. And second of all, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don’t think that is right. I don’t think he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room.”
There's more: “Something has to give. If you have 12 other ballplayers in your locker room that’s upset and can’t concentrate and always worried about him in the locker room or on the court or whatever, it’s going to be hard for your teammates to win and accept him as a teammate.”

Hardaway even said he would lobby for the gay player to lose his job. So, the choice for gay athletes is simple. Stay in the closet or risk both the antipathy of your peers and the loss of your job.

Of course, Hardaway has since apologized. Not for holding these views. But for saying them out loud, in the media. Because that's what's so wrong. Not thinking it. Talking about it. How is it that homophobia is that last acceptable bigotry? Why is it still so okay to say you hate gays? Maybe, in part, because "role models' like Tim Hardaway keep it that way.


  • At 1:53 p.m., Blogger the2scoops said…

    Maybe Hardaway can go to rehab. He could get the NBA group rate.

    Amaechi's announcement cast some light on comments made in an interview back in 2001.


  • At 2:49 p.m., Blogger Marky Mark said…

    What he said is disgusting and I agree with you that what is even more notable is that he must have felt that his views were socially acceptable within his milieu. At least it received news coverage, generally critical, so maybe that's a start to changing attitudes.

  • At 3:22 p.m., Blogger Jenster said…

    Is homphobia rehab near the places where they "cure" gay people?

  • At 10:28 a.m., Blogger the2scoops said…

    The Isiah Washington Homophobia Rehab is located next to the Mel Gibson Center for Tolerance. There's a Publicist Monument right in the middle of the campus.


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