Learning tolerance the Hardaway

When I was 10 years old and an avid basketball player, I had a strange obsession with the Golden State Warriors’ back court, nicknamed Run TMC. Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin were bad asses, and I spent many an afternoon in my parents’ driveway doing horrible impressions of Hardaway’s famed “killer crossover.” Which is why I was so sad when, a couple of years ago, Hardaway said: “I hate gay people. I let it be known. I don’t like to be around gay people. I’m homophobic.” A crap storm followed, Hardaway was disowned by pretty much everyone he worked for, and that was that.

Two years later, following some sensitivity classes, Hardaway’s foundation is sponsoring a fundraiser for Trevor’s Project, which works to prevent gay teen suicide. It’s a noble cause, and good for him. That said, the quote he gave the Miami Herald managed to undo for me a lot of goodwill his fundraiser should otherwise generate: “Gays and lesbians, we don’t have to accept the act, but we have to accept them as people,” he told Steve Rothaus. “Especially children, we don’t want them to kill themselves. We want them to live their lives as they want to.”

Actually, you do have to accept the act, just as you have to accept gravity and heliocentrism. To say that you disapprove of their love lives can actually contribute to teens’ desire to kill themselves, as it reinforces the idea that they cannot live regular lives in the community. If in fact you want kids to “live their lives as they want to,” you have to approve of the fact that some of them will choose same-sex partners.

Maybe Hardaway is more gay-friendly these days than he comes across, but I doubt it. Just when I thought he had made a killer crossover to the side of the angels, he’s still freaking out about whether a gay dude would check him out in the shower.

Whatever the man’s personal feelings, here’s hoping his event raises a bunch of money. With people like Hardaway in the world, gay kids are going to need it.

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