Tim Hardaway changes his tune after making homophobic remarks in 2007

“I hate gay people,” Tim Hardaway, 44, once told a Miami radio show. He went on to admit, “I don’t like to be around gay people. I’m homophobic. It shouldn't be in the world for that or in the United States for it. So yeah, I don't like it."

But that was in 2007. Four years later he’s now come out in support of LGBT equality.

“My family and friends came to me and were like, ‘What are you doing?’” he recently told ABC-7 in El Paso, TX, explaining his change of heart. “I talked to them and they made me understand that [homophobia] wasn’t right.”

The former NBA all-star recently traveled to El Paso for a golf outing and to discuss LGBT equality. He also came out against the recall of several elected officials who voted to restore health benefits for gay and unmarried partners of city employees, despite a ballot initiative in November that abolished them.

"It's not right to not let the gays and lesbians have equal rights here,” Hardaway said. “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’s original homophobic statements were in response to former NBA player John Amaechi coming out of the closet. Here’s what else Hardaway had to say about the LGBT community in that February 14, 2007 interview.

"First of all I wouldn't want him on my team. And second of all, if he was on my team, you know, I would really distance myself from him because, uh, I don't think that is right. I don't think that he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room, and it's just a whole lot of other things and I wouldn't even be a part of that.”

Later that night, however, after the story went viral and caused an immediately backlash he apologized.

"I'm sorry,” he said. “I shouldn't have said I hate gay people or anything like that.” He continued to back peddle away from his original comments one day later in an official statement released by his agent.

The damage to Hardaway’s reputation, however, was already done. The NBA responded to Hardaway's comments by removing him from its All-Star Weekend activities that week and Hardaway's employer, Trinity Sports, owner of the Anderson-based CBA Indiana Alley Cats, dismissed him from his position as Chief Basketball Operations Advisor. Hardaway also lost endorsements and had to remove his name from a car wash business he owned in Miami.

“It is inappropriate for him to be representing us given the disparity between his views and ours," NBA commissioner David Stern said at the time. Amaechi though had much stronger words for Hardaway: "Every comment he made is laden with hate. He has been a lightning rod for people to finally open the flood gates and decide that they can say some pretty awful stuff.”

Other pro basketball players such as Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal quickly came out in support of LGBT players.

"I feel sorry for Tim Hardaway," Barkley said. "For any person to say something like that is ignorant and stupid. It's like saying you hate blacks, or you hate whites or Jewish people. It might be OK to say you disagree with that lifestyle, but to say you hate a whole group of people is just plain ignorant."

While O'Neal said "I was always taught as a youngster to never judge people, so I never judge people and to each their own. If [a gay person] was my teammate and people ridiculed him and jumped on him, I would probably have to protect him."

Later that year in a September 2007 interview, Hardaway apologized again for his February comments.

“I had no idea how much I hurt people. A lot of people,” he said. "[This has been] the biggest bump [in the road] in my life. I'm going to do whatever I can to correct it. That's all I can do.”

Several years later in February of 2010, Hardaway spoke about his work with The Trevor Project and The YES Institute, where he educated himself on LGBT issues.

In 2007 founding director of the YES Institute in Miami, Martha Fugate, told the Palm Beach Post she found Hardaway "a very authentic person" and explained that it could have been his spontaneity that "got him in trouble. My experience with Tim is there's nothing hateful about the guy."

John Amaechi is hopeful that Hardaway’s latest outreach to the community is sincere.

“It seems to me that this is a far more genuine piece of outreach,” Amaechi said. “I hope this is a story of true redemption rather than a savvy P.R. ploy … [but] either way, he is at least saying the right words, and that will make a positive difference.”

From Homophobia to Equality: Tim Hardaway’s Evolution on LGBT Rights

February 14, 2007:

When former Miami Heat player Tim Hardaway was asked on the radio about another former NBA star coming out of the closet he went on a homophobic rant. Stated Hardaway: "First of all I wouldn't want him on my team. And second of all, if he was on my team, you know, I would really distance myself from him because, uh, I don't think that is right. I don't think that he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room, and it's just a whole lot of other things and I wouldn't even be a part of that. But stuff like that is going on and there's a lot of other people I hear that are like that and still in the closet and don't want to come out of the closet, but you know I just leave that alone. Well, 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 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.''

February 14, 2007:

Later that day after his comments made headlines he backpedaled and said “Yes, I regret it. I'm sorry.I shouldn't have said that I hate gay people or anything like that. I should have just said I don't condone him being in the locker room."

Later in an interview with sports reporter Jim Berry he expanded upon his comments: Here’s the exchange:

Berry: "Do you think some people would view that as bigoted as someone white saying I hate black people"
Hardaway: "Probably so. I don't condone it. And if people have a problem with that, I'm sorry. I'm saying that I can't stand being around that person knowing that they sleep with somebody of the same sex."

Berry: "So if you had a family member who was gay, you're saying that you hate them?"
Hardaway: "Yes. Yes. Yeah. I wouldn't talk to them."

Berry: "Tell me why."
Hardaway: "I just told you. 'Cause I don't condone it."

February 15, 2007:

As the controversy continued to spiral out of control his agent released a statement from Hardaway the next day. It read:"As an African-American, I know all too well the negative thoughts and feelings hatred and bigotry cause. I regret and apologize for the statements that I made that have certainly caused the same kinds of feelings and reactions. I especially apologize to my fans, friends and family in Miami and Chicago. I am committed to examining my feelings and will recognize, appreciate and respect the differences among people in our society. I regret any embarrassment I have caused the league on the eve of one of their greatest annual events."

February 18, 2007:

A few days later Hardaway apologized again for his remarks. "I don't hate gay people. I'm a goodhearted person. I interact with people all the time. ... I respect people. For me to say 'hate' was a bad word, and I didn't mean to use it."

September 2007:

After months of declining interviews Hardaway finally admitted the first few weeks after his homophobic rant was “hell” and afterwards he sought sensitivity training to understand the LGBT community. “I just wanted to go in and get educated, that’s all. Get educated on what I said and why I said those things. I’m working on understanding it now. I’m not really trying to make amends. I’ve been there trying to get help.”

“I had no idea how much I hurt people. A lot of people. I’ve always told my family, there’s going to be bumps in the road. And I caused a huge bump, the biggest bump in my life. But I’m going to do whatever I can to correct it. That’s all I can do. So that’s where I am.”

October, 2009:

In 2009 the Tim Hardaway Foundation co-sponsored an event benefitting The Trevor Project, a national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among LGBT youth. Stated Hardaway: "Gays and lesbians, we don't have to accept the act, but we have to accept them as people. Especially children, we don't want them to kill themselves. We want them to live their lives as they want to.”

In another interview he said: "I made a mistake. I can't take it back, but I'm trying to do everything I can to learn things. Maybe it'll help somebody else not make the mistake I made."

August, 2011:

Hardaway traveled to El Paso for a golf outing, and attended a press conference urging citizens to oppose recall efforts against Mayor John Cook and city Reps. Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega. The three are being recalled by the El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values. They’re angry because they voted to restore health benefits for gay and unmarried partners of city employees, despite a ballot initiative that had abolished them. Stated Hardaway: "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."


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