Friday, February 16, 2007

Quote of the day, II: Now THIS, Tim Hardaway, is the fine old hoopster homophobia we were looking for (Plus: "Four more years" for Keith Olbermann)


"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."
--former Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway, in an appearance Wednesday on Miami Herald sports columnist Dan LeBatard's sports-talk radio show

Just last Friday, we were expressing some wonder ("Are NBA players merely shy about voicing their homophobia, or is it possible that they could really be ready to accept an openly gay teammate?") at Washington Post sports columnist Michael Wilbon's claim to have found horrifying as well as enlightened responses to the disclosure by retired NBA center John Amaechi's that he's gay.

I mean, as bad as it got was a pair of quotes from Philadelphia 76ers--"As long as you don't bring your gayness on me, I'm fine" (Shavlik Randolph) and "As long as he came to play basketball like a man and conducted himself as a good person, I'd be fine with it" (Steven Hunter), plus LeBron James saying, "With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you're gay and you're not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy. So that's like the number one thing as teammates . . . we all trust each other."

I still say, as expressions of homophobia go, if these even qualify, they're downright pathetic. Why, consider Steven Hunter's "As long as he came to play basketball like a man and conducted himself as a good person, I'd be fine with it." For cripes' sake, isn't this a test you'd want to apply to all sports teammates? Of course it would probably thin out most pro locker rooms pretty drastically. But that wouldn't have anything to do with sexual orientation.

Now, thank goodness, along comes retired Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway.

Our Tim is retired, of course, and so he doesn't need to curb his tongue. It seems pretty clear from the transcript below that he knew exactly what he was saying, and and then he said it all over again in a phone interview with Miami TV channel 4's sports director, Jim Berry. Keith Olbermann had the story last night on Countdown,* with the added information that our Tim's outburst seems to have gotten him disinvited from the upcoming NBA All-Star Game.

Here, courtesy of the Miami Herald, is a transcript of Tim Hardaway's comments with radio host Dan LeBatard (pronounced, by the way, as one word, with the accent on the first syllable--so as not to make you think it means, well, what it actually does):

LeBatard [right]: How do you deal with a gay teammate?

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.''

What could you do? Would you ask for a trade?

''Or I ask for him to get traded. Something has to give. And I think the majority of the players would ask for him to be traded or they would want to get traded. Or buy him out of his contract and just let him go. Something has to give. If you have 12 other ballplayers in your locker room that are 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.''

What if the player was that great?

''If he were that great, something would still have to give. People would feel uncomfortable with that. If you're not gay, nobody in that locker room would feel comfortable with that person on your team.''

You know what you are saying there is flatly homophobic? It's bigotry?

''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.''

Now that's the genuine article: homophobia plain and simple, without apology. And in the later interview with Jim Berry, Tim seemed surprised that what he'd said was even controversial, suggesting that lots of NBA players feel this was but just won't say so.

Okay, Mr. Wilbon, if we take Tim at his word, it sounds like we've finally got a heapin' helpin' of that ignorance you promised us originally with the head on your column: "Sexuality Disclosed, Ignorance Exposed."


All through last night's broadcast he teased us with a promised announcement of "four more years." And indeed he has signed a new contract, which covers not just Countdown but two Countdown specials a year, more of his special commentaries, and contributions to NBC Nightly News and NBC Sports.

Obviously this is good news. As NBC News President Steve Capus is quoted saying, Countdown "has put MSNBC back on the map. It is as creative a broadcast as there is going today." Congratulations on the vote of confidence, Keith, and thanks for everything.


At 9:54 AM, Blogger zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Countdown is the only news program I watch, national or local.

Other than the Daily show, of course, but that's a fake news show, you know.

At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - what a sad character. His language reminds of me of all the ugly speech we heard prior to the civil rights movement. Consider, for example, if you replaced "gay" with "black":

Q: How do you deal with a black teammate?
A: ..I wouldn't want him on my team...I would distance myself from him...I don't think he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room.

Doesn't Hardaway realize this is how whites routinely talked about blacks just a few decades ago? Doesn't he recognize hateful speech?

At 11:23 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

He sure made his feelings pretty clear, didn't he?

One possibly interesting sidelight, which I didn't want to get into, because it involves matters unknown and unknowable, is that over there's the year that Tim himself might play for the other team, and some people wonder if he either IS gay himself or carries the wounds of those suspicions.


At 11:25 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Sorry, I surely did garble the above. What I meant to write was that over the years there have been rumors about Tim's orientation.


At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's been hard not to notice that the TV news analysis of Tim Hardaway's hate rant has often been so incredibly lacking. I suppose this shouldn't be a surprise, considering how the American sports media mostly mishandled John Amaechi's coming out in the first place. Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley, on TNT's prominent NBA broadcasts, took the cynical approach (one they curiously intended as the high ground) that NBA players don't have issues with gay teammates and that Amaechi's only reason for coming out was to sell a book. Charles, never the sharpest tool in the shed, was unwilling or unable to take the issue beyond this superficial, preposterously presumptive thought (and by the way, Charles, every appearance you make on TV pads your pockets, too; does that mean we should dismiss your diatribes as pure money-making schemes?). NBA players may be progressive compared to the neanderthals in the NFL and MLB, but not by much. All three leagues feature culturally challenged men obsessed with sandbox notions of masculinity, but also a startling number religious zealots who can be heard after games praising a God who they believe helps them win and helps their coincidentally God-fearing opponents lose. For Charles or Kenny to assert that such an atmosphere is likely to be one of tolerance for an out-of-the-closet baller is ludicrous. Hardaway's comments, as Amaechi himself pointed out, are in this way a relief, for at least they cut through the kind of see-no-evil, hear-no-evil nonsense spouted by "analysts" like Barkley.

This is exactly why people like Barkley are so ill-equipped to publicly moderate discussions on the matter. In the wake of Hardaway's comments, Barkley said a gay teammate is a non-issue, that he, for instance, would be fine playing and showering and going out to road game dinners with such a person. Fair enough. Let's assume, though, especially given Hardaway's comments, that the same would not be true for every NBA player. The next step would be to analyze where this hatred comes from and why professional sports teams might be super-saturated representations of the greater homophobic population in the good ol' US of A. But wait, doesn't that homophobia and hatred come primarily from Western religion, and, in the case of American sports, specifically, Christianity? In that context, let's entertain Barkley's new favorite post-Hardaway sign-off on the topic: "Only God can judge people." He means this, partly, as a way to say that he himself doesn't judge Amaechi or other gay people. But the statement also points us to the widely-held belief that God, through Christian doctrine, does judge gay people and in fact damns them to hell. So why would we (or the NBA or Turner Broadcasting) want Barkley, a Christian regularly given to asserting his Christianity, attempting to publicly moderate a discussion about a negative and damaging cultural phenomenon (homophobia) when that same phenomenon is engendered by principles of a religion that the moderator (Barkley) himself admits to follow? Do you think anyone at TNT or in the NBA league office realizes that, in those moments when Barkley pretends to take the high ground by saying, "Only God can judge people," he is, and they are by extension, actually perpetuating homophobia? This should be a major embarrassment for the league and for TNT, but I'm certain that it's written off as nothing more than "Charles being Charles."

Part of the issue here is that, with an explosion of media and networks and broadcasts in general, there has been a greater "need" for more talking heads, along with a greater "need" for more entertaining and thus competitive talking heads, and this has resulted in a considerably larger talent pool with extremely meager credentials. Barkley is a direct result of this. Should someone with his lack of depth and perspective really be afforded an analyst's job at TNT? This problem is slightly less conspicuous when he and Kenny and Ernie are jawing about basketball talent or strategy or Charles' gut, but it's writ large and rimmed in neon when they veer into social or cultural issues like homosexuality and tolerance. I wish I could say that this hiring trend was more than just a temporary low point on the sports continuum, but given the money involved and the ingrained corporate wisdom that lowest common denominator material is the easiest way to that money, I, unfortunately, don't see it waning any time soon. Barkley, if he gets his wish, may end up in politics someday in the near future. And if present conditions are any indication, he'll be welcomed with open, Republican arms in a profession that tolerates, even privileges, culturally-stunted men with little analytical skill and even less capacity to formulate their thoughts through language. Oh, goody.

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