- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2007

Tim Hardaway has come out of his closet of hate to denounce gays in the locker room, the United States and the world.

His is a view that would bring smiles to the faces of the Taliban, the jihad nut jobs and all too many mullahs of the Middle East.

Hardaway, of course, was moved to apologize for his remarks, which coincided with the NBA’s rebuke. The NBA, in wanting no connection to Hardaway’s extremist beliefs, has removed him from all league-related appearances.

The 40-year-old Hardaway did not even bother to buttress his commentary with religious references, often the first line of defense of the homophobic.

Hardaway is old enough to know better and not eligible to receive the same latitude as LeBron James and Shavlik Randolph, to name two players uncertain of gays in the locker room.

Randolph would be fine with a gay in the locker room, so long as the person did not become all gay on him, which reflects the conceit of professional athletes.

James merely sees it as an issue of trust, depending no doubt on how one defines trust.

James probably would not evoke the trust word on a married teammate who has a bimbo stashed in every NBA city.

You might think a serial philanderer has a serious trust gap.

But we can indulge the verbal missteps of James and Randolph because of their youth and limited life exposure beyond the basketball subculture.

The issue of gays in the locker room has been provoked by the ESPN-driven coming-out of John Amaechi, a former NBA player of marginal ability.

Amaechi’s revelation has been lauded in some circles and questioned in others, as if writing a tell-all book for cash somehow trivializes the discussion.

The same faulty logic was employed against Jose Canseco’s tell-all book on steroids.

Amaechi could have written a book on his basketball philosophy, but it is safe to assume that ESPN would not have embraced the project and it would have slipped under America’s radar.

The gayness of an ex-athlete should fall into the ho-hum category, and it does with a good number of current and ex-athletes, as both Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley made clear last week.

Surely, no one is naive enough to think the rosters of all the major professional sports teams are 100 percent heterosexual. Not too many years ago, a player with the Bullets was the object of all sorts of rumors.

Yet the gays who play professional sports are not likely to come out because of the thinking of Hardaway and the fear of those like him.

If an active gay athlete were thinking of announcing his sexuality, it would take one who is not just mentally strong but one who would be indispensable to a team.

Hardaway merely confirms what Amaechi instinctively knew while playing in the NBA. His attraction to the same sex, if known, would have been met with enough hostility that being open would not have been worth it.

Amaechi concedes that a few of his teammates in Utah suspected the truth and were fine with it.

He also writes of his poor relationship with Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, whether because of suspicions about his sexuality or their philosophical differences on basketball.

Whatever the case, Amaechi chronicles his contempt for Sloan in unsparing fashion.

At least Hardaway was honest, as Amaechi noted, expressing in public what possibly too many in professional sports think in private.

And Hardaway provides another benefit to the locker-room debate.

He puts a face to the discrimination case gay activists often make.

If Hardaway were a coach or general manager of a team, does anyone think he possibly could be fair in evaluating either an out player or one suspected of being gay?

Hardaway left no doubt what his position would be.

He would not tolerate it in a locker room or anywhere else.

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