Homophobic sports star reaches out to suicidal gay teens

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In a somewhat remarkable turn of events, former NBA player Tim Hardaway, who made waves when he gave his now infamous “I hate gay people” speech last winter, may be turning over a new leaf.

The former Miami Heat guard has become an active part of a children’s advocacy group, which caters to the gay community.

Hardaway, who spent most of his time with the Heat during his professional career, retired in 2003, but was thrust back into the spotlight after his homophobic rant on the Dan Le Batard radio programme in February.

Le Batard talked about retired NBA centre John Amaechi, who had recently come out of the closet, and Hardaway candidly bashed his decision.

“First of all, I wouldn’t want him on my team. Second of all, if he was on my team, I would really distance myself from him because I don’t think that’s right and I don’t think he should be in the locker room when we’re in the locker room… I hate gay people, so I let it be known.

“I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don’t like it.”

The controversy persisted after Hardaway’s half-hearted apology later that day, but the backlash eventually dissipated.

Six months later, unprompted by media attention or mandated by any sports body, Hardaway learned of the YES Institute in south Florida.

It “seeks to prevent teen suicides while boosting the self-esteem of children and keeping them free of violence and discrimination.”

The focus is mostly on gay and lesbian youth and Hardaway took it upon himself to visit the organisation.

“I just wanted to go in and get educated, that’s all. Get educated on what I said and why I said those things,’ Hardaway told the Associated Press.

“I’m working on understanding it now. I’m not really trying to make amends. I’ve been there trying to get help.”

The director of the organisation, Martha Fugate, told SI.com that she didn’t believe he had been motivated by a publicity “quick fix” because he had declined interviews about his work with advocacy groups and had kept things very quiet.

She believed that his motives were genuine and felt that he was truly trying to understand what he had done.

“I have taken steps and I’m happy that I did,” Hardaway said. “If I didn’t, I’d still be naive about it, ignorant about the whole thing. But I can talk about it now.”

There is of course no telling what his actual motives are, but hopefully as a role model people will look to him as an example and will learn the importance of tolerance.

Dylan Vox © 2007 GaySports.com; All Rights Reserved.