When John Amaechi came out, it became inevitable that someone was going to say something stupid. Shavlik Randolph, Steven Hunter, and others made some ignorant comments. Nothing particularly strong or hateful, just middle-school insecurity. I should be encouraged by this. Hell, it'd be great to think that everyone in pro sports was ready to accept the idea of a gay teammate. I'm sure most athletes have played with homosexuals during their careers, but a world where jocks felt free to be out in public would be very different. Still, there was a small part of myself that couldn't wait for the NBA's Carl Everett, whoever he might be, to stick his foot in his mouth. You know, to use a public platform to declare his opposition to the gay/dinosaur invasion. To take a stand against John Amaechi and his vile plans to subvert pro basketball with the collaboration of Fagosaurus Rex.
Tim Hardaway may not have taken it that far, but he got his sneakers pretty well planted in his throat. On Dan Le Batard's radio show, the former Warriors and Heat star made a series of inflammatory comments when asked how he'd react to having a gay teammate. When the host gave him an opportunity to soften his stance, Hardaway refused, proudly labelling himself a homophobe. Tim didn't stop there, using a later interview to claim that his feelings were shared by many NBA players, and that he'd hate a gay family member too. How incredibly sad. Amaechi got it right when he responded that Hardaway's comments weren't the problem. The fact is, he's probably speaking for a lot people. Most are probably just too smart to blow endorsement and other employment opportunities for the sake of getting their opinion out there.
Now we get to the strange part. The object of so much of my ire up until this point, Isiah Thomas, has been the gold standard in responding to this situation:
We're a diverse society. We preach acceptance. We're proud of our diversity. No matter what your sexual preference might be, there's an acceptance and a tolerance level that should be accepted everywhere. No one should be excluded. Sports has always been a testing ground for what society will or won't accept. We accept and we embrace diversity. If we're not tolerant, we'll become tolerant...If it's in my locker room, we won't have a problem with it. I can't speak for somebody else's locker room, but if it's in mine, we won't have a problem. I'll make damn sure there's no problem.
Wow. I feel so conflicted! This is like when I started to see Kobe like something other than a total ball hog. I don't know how to feel. Isiah Thomas said and did the right thing, and came off as genunine when he did it? Where exactly do I go from here? Say what you want about Isiah, I know I have, but he's not a homophobe. So, to review, he's a terrible GM, an iffy coach, a bad businessman, a serial groper, a baby seal clubber, but not a homophobe.