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Friday, February 16, 2007

Gee, tell us what you think, Tim. Don't hold back!

For those of you who don't follow sports closely, Tim Hardaway, formerly of the Indiana Pacers, raised more than a few eyebrows with this little rant on "790 the Ticket" radio show, hosted by Dan La Batard. The conversation came about after former NBA player John Amaechi came out as a gay man several weeks ago.

Now, clearly Hardaway is an idiot, and thankfully without the ability to influence public policy in this matter. Additionally, his diatribe is protected speech-the ACLU would go to the mattresses defending his right to hateful, homophobic rhetoric, as they should. What's interesting to me in this case is the nonchalance and disregard for consequences with which the words were uttered. He has obviously expressed these feelings before and been rewarded for the effort-"yeah, Tim, we'll get those fucking faggots tonight!" followed by a round of yuks and high-fives and head butts.

The issue to me is less about professional sports (which has actually been struggling with the issue for a few years now, as this SI article reveals) than it is the reflection of societal attitudes about homosexuality. Professional athletes rarely suffer significant consequences for their behavior, and thus many of them, like Hardaway, put no restraints on it. So Tim Hardaway only acknowledged what millions of less privileged Americans think but are hesitant to give full voice to (well, not all of them are hesitant-there is a Baptist group that currently believes that every soldier's death is God's retribution for the acts of gay people and lets that view be known by mocking soldier's families at their funerals). Instead, they hide behind quaint phrases such as "special rights" and "preserving the sanctity of marriage" to cloak the fact that the majority of them, in fact, hate gay people, are repulsed by them, and think they don't belong in the US or the world. At least Hardaway was arrogant enough to be honest about it.

Tim Hardaway's words should serve as a wake up call to those of us committed to civil rights for all. We are far less evolved on the issue of sexual orientation than we think we are.

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