Every once in a while a tiger manages to change his stripes. Take retired Miami Heat Point Guard Tim Hardaway, for example.
In February 2007, Tim Hardaway made headlines when he told an interviewer, “I hate gay people.” He went on to say that if a player on his team had come out of the closet, he would have asked that the player be traded.
Four short years later, there’s a different Tim Hardaway in the news. Last week, he joined a press conference in El Paso, Texas, where local religious right leaders are leading a recall election of the mayor and two city representatives. The move comes after the city leaders voted to reinstate benefits for the spouses of LGBT city workers.
Only this time, Tim Hardaway is standing up against discrimination.
In asking citizens to oppose the recall, Hardaway said he was asking them not to do what he did.
Faced with a backlash from friends, family and the NBA, Hardaway quickly apologized for what he said.
“I opened my eyes and went to counseling,” he said Thursday.
Tom Brown, leader of the recall drive, was not available for comment on Thursday.
But supporters say they are motivated by frustration that Cook, Byrd and Ortega disregarded the outcome of the November initiative. They also say they harbor no hatred toward gays — but that they think it’s wrong to use tax dollars to support what they believe is an immoral lifestyle.
Hardaway wasn’t having it on Thursday as he stood, clad all in white, in Lower Tom Lea Park.
“I would say grow up and catch up with the times,” he said. “It’s all around the world.”
Hardaway said that what made his earlier statements especially shameful is that, as a black man, he should understand discrimination. And so should El Paso, as it has in the past, he said.
He recalled how in 1966 at the height of the civil rights movement, his former coach, Don Haskins, led a team with five black starters past an all-white University of Kentucky team to win a national championship.
“A lot of people said, ‘What is Don Haskins doing?’ ” Hardaway said. “But El Paso understood.”
Good on you, Tim. You’ve made an amazing transformation in a short time. I hope the people of El Paso and beyond learn from your inspirational example.