Monday, August 22, 2011

Hardaway Evolves

Tim Hardaway was a star point guard in the NBA, known for his crossover dribble.  But it was what dribbled from his mouth that I remember best.

"You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known," Hardaway said on a sports radio show in 2007.  "I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I'm homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."

Or in the solar system, I presume.

All and sundry criticized him, and the NBA put the already-retired player on its get-out-of-our-sight list.

Flash forward to last week.  A college star at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Hardaway was in town to play golf.   He also spoke at a press conference opposing the effort to recall the El Paso mayor and two city representatives.  The three earned the ire of religious conservatives for voting to restore health benefits for the same-sex partners of city employees after voters had canned the benefits.

Hardaway called on El Pasoans not to commit the same flagrant foul he had.

"I would say grow up and catch up with the times," he said. "It's all around the world."

Maybe even in the solar system.

Hardaway, who said he went to counseling after the brouhaha, noted his discriminatory words were especially sad coming from a black man.  He spoke of his former coach, Don Haskins, who in 1966 famously led a UTEP team with five black starters over a lily-white University of Kentucky team to win the national title.

"A lot of people said, 'What is Don Haskins doing?' " said Hardaway. "But El Paso understood."

Whether El Paso will understand this time remains to be seen, but the hoopster seems to have gotten it.  I can't say he now plays for our team—because that has a different connotation—but Hardaway is now willing to be our assist man.