While it’s easy to put professional athletes on a pedestal, at the end of the day, they’re all humans. We’ve recently had seen a reminder of that reality, with DeSean Jackson sharing antisemitic content on social media. Long before Jackson, however, Tim Hardaway made headlines with his own hateful comments.
In 2007, the former NBA guard infamously proclaimed that he “[hated gay people” and was unabashedly homophobic. After that interview, however, Hardaway apologized and, more importantly, showed the proper way to make amends for a mistake.
Tim Hardaway was a talented NBA player
These days, Tim Hardaway’s name is synonymous with his homophobic comments. During his time on the court, however, he was a pretty talented player.
After high school, Hardaway took his talents to UTEP. While the guard didn’t make much of an impact as a freshman—he only averaged 4.1 per outing during his first seasons with the Miners—he developed into a legitimate star. Hardaway’s stats increased year over year, culminating with a 22 point and 5.4 assist per game senior campaign.
The Golden State Warriors selected Hardaway with the 14th overall pick of the 1989 NBA draft, and the guard promptly slotted into the starting lineup. By his second season in the association, the guard was dropping more than 20 points per outing and earned a place in the All-Star Game. With Run TMC leading the way, the Warriors made back-to-back playoff appearances.
While Hardaway missed the entire 1993-94 season with a knee injury and left Golden State during the 1995-95 campaign, he continued to impress. Alonzo Mourning might have gotten most of the headlines with the Miami Heat, but the veteran guard was a key contributor.
After brief stints with the Mavs, Nuggets, and Pacers, Hardaway’s NBA career concluded in 2003. He played a total of 867 games in the association, averaging 17.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 9.2 assists per outing; the guard also appeared in five All-Star Games and made five All-NBA teams.
Ruining his reputation with a homophobic interview
While Hardaway’s NBA playing career ended after the 2003 campaign, his legacy changed on an infamous day in 2007.
On February 14, the guard appeared on The Dan Le Batard Show and fielded a question about the possibility of having a gay teammate. Rather than offering his support, Hardaway provided an unabashedly homophobic response.
“Well, you know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known,” he said, as recounted by Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post. “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.”
While he promptly apologized, the damage had already been done. Hardaway was banned from that year’s NBA All-Star Game; to this day, those comments are probably at least part of the reason why he still isn’t in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Tim Hardaway showed the proper way to apologize
Tim Hardaway’s action didn’t stop with his apology, though. Crucially, he changed his behavior to back up his words.
Following his hateful interview, Hardaway listened, learned, and started to walk the walk. “In the years following the radio interview, Hardaway has become an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, including working with The Trevor Project, a nonprofit group that focuses on suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth,” Bontemps’ article explained.
“He also became the first signer of a petition to legalize same-sex marriage in the state of Florida. In 2011, Hardaway attended a rally in El Paso — where he had been a college star at UTEP years earlier — to support the city’s mayor, John Cook, who was facing an attempted recall vote (which later failed) after allowing domestic partnership rights for gay and unmarried couples.” When Jason Collins came out as gay in 2013, he received a phone call from Hardaway, lending his support.
According to those who know him, like Stan Van Gundy, the former guard has had a “genuine change of heart.” That, not his apology, is what stands out today.
As DeSean Jackson painfully proved, Tim Hardaway wasn’t the last professional athlete to make an awful, public comment. The veteran guard, however, was one of the rare public figures to offer a proper apology, then back it up.