As much as we prefer not to give him airtime, it's almost impossible, especially given Hardaway's recent confessional to longtime friend childhood friend Scoop Jackson on ESPN's Page 2. Jackson prefaces the interview by asking, "What do you do when you see your friend in the middle of the ocean drowning?" Well, naturally, you thrown him a life preserver, but, if that friend is Tim Hardaway, he scorns the gesture and tosses it aside. Example: After Hardaway claimed he "doesn't have a hate bone" in his body, Jackson asks:
Tim, you've been in Miami for years now and there is a strong and public gay community there. How have you still held on to that same mentality while living in Miami all of these years?
I just get away from it. I just walk away. I see it, I just go the other way, cross the street.
As we said, Hardaway doesn't hate anyone, he simply crosses Collins Boulevard to avoid the circuit boys. Scoop tries one more to throw that lifeline, this time focusing on the central issue of what forces gay men into the closet:
OK, so let's say one of our boys, or better yet for the sake of this interview, what if I told you that I was gay. We've known each other all of our lives, came up together, we boys and all, and out of nowhere I spring that on you. Told you that the wife and kids were all a facade and that all of this time I've been gay. How would you accept that? Or would you? Would you end the friendship?
Wow. I don't know. I honestly don't know. Wow. I'd probably be or say something like, "Me and Scoop was tight until he told me this." Our friendship may not continue to be as tight as it is but I'd let you know that you could call me, talk to me whenever, something like that. I really wouldn't know how to react to that.
It's too simplistic to argue that athletes only reflect the sentiments of a larger, homophobic sports culture. At some point, leadership is necessary. Shana Naomi Krochmal at Out.com's Popnography offers a refreshing perspective on why athletes such as Hardaway insist upon wearing blinders:
It's the owners, front offices and league leadership. If all the commissioners came out tomorrow and said, "We have gay players, we welcome them, we encourage them to come out and will tolerate no bias against them in the locker room or on the field," which would in turn create the same kind of space for straight star players to make affirming statements like we saw this week, I think it'd be—well, as they say, it'd be a whole other ballgame.
Sheryl Swoopes agrees. The star of the Houston Comets, who came out under fire almost a year and a half ago, notes that Hardaway's celebrity compounded the issue: "Not only did they hurt and affect people like John [Amaechi] or me, but there are so many young kids out there, black white, boy, girl, but there are so many young kids out there dealing with their sexuality and to hear someone of Tim Hardaway's stature come out and make those comments like he made ... it's very detrimental."
Sheryl Swoopes on Tim Hardaway (You Tube via Zavier)
Getting Personal with Tim Hardaway (Popnography)
Some Background ...Inside the Locker Room (Rod 2.0) NBA Reprimands Hardaway (Rod 2.0) Shaq and Wade Defend Gays (Rod 2.0) No Coming Out Party for Amaechi (Rod 2.0) News: Will Demps on Gays (Rod 2.0) Charles Barkley on Gay Marriage (Rod 2.0) On the "Outside Looking In" (Rod 2.0) Out of Bounds (Rod 2.0) "Tired of Having to Pretend" (Rod 2.0) Rio Ferdinand Apologizes (Rod 2.0)