Retired NBA star Hardaway says he hates 'gay people'

Updated: February 16, 2007, 11:38 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Former Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway said on a radio show Wednesday afternoon that he would not want a gay player on his team.

Tim Hardaway
Hardaway

"You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known," Hardaway said. "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."

Hardaway was a guest of Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard on Miami sports radio station WAXY-AM and was asked how he would deal with a gay teammate. When asked if he would accept an active player's coming out, such as that of retired NBA center John Amaechi, Hardaway replied: "First of all, I wouldn't want him on my team.

"And second of all, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don't think that's right. And you know I don't think he should be in the locker room while we're in the locker room. I wouldn't even be a part of that," he said.

John Amaechi on the radio
Mike & Mike
John Amaechi appeared on "Mike & Mike In The Morning" on Thursday to respond to Tim Hardaway's comments. Best of Mike & Mike

• On ESPN Radio's The Pulse: Dan Le Batard recounts his reaction to Hardaway's comments. Listen

His former coach, Pat Riley, told a Miami radio station on Thursday that "[Hardaway's attitude] would not be tolerated in our organization," the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

"Yes, I was shocked by some of the words that he used," Riley said on WQAM-AM, according to the newspaper. "It's a tough subject to talk about if you're not really thinking about it a lot. It's one-sided. But I was a little bit shocked by some of the words that he used.

"But I do know that Tim's a good spirit, and I'm sure now he wished he could take all of that back," Riley added, the newspaper reported. "And I hope he's not severely judged by his spewing of some of those words. That kind of thinking can't be tolerated. It just can't."

NBA commissioner David Stern, upon learning of the remarks Wednesday, banished Hardaway from All-Star weekend in Las Vegas.

"It is inappropriate for him to be representing us given the disparity between his views and ours," Stern said in a statement Thursday.

Stern said he had not spoken with Hardaway, who left Las Vegas on Thursday, but he planned to do so.

While Stern said a discussion about openly gay players could be part of future rookie orientation programs, he doesn't see a need to address the league.

"This is an issue overall that has fascinated America. It's not an NBA issue," Stern said, pointing to the ongoing debate over gay marriage at the state and federal levels.

"This is a country that needs to talk about this issue," he said. "And, not surprisingly, they use sports as a catalyst to begin the dialogue."

Hardaway apologized for his comments, which came a week after Amaechi became the first former NBA player to say he was gay.

"As an African-American, I know all too well the negative thoughts and feelings hatred and bigotry cause," Hardaway said Thursday in a statement issued by his agent. "I regret and apologize for the statements that I made that have certainly caused the same kinds of feelings and reactions.

"I especially apologize to my fans, friends and family in Miami and Chicago. I am committed to examining my feelings and will recognize, appreciate and respect the differences among people in our society," he said. "I regret any embarrassment I have caused the league on the eve of one of their greatest annual events."

Hardaway, who played in five All-Star Games during the 1990s, was already in Las Vegas and scheduled to make a series of public appearances this week on behalf of the league. He attended an NBA Cares event at a Las Vegas YMCA with Knicks forward Jerome Williams on Tuesday. The ex-U.S. Olympian was also originally scheduled to be an assistant coach at a wheelchair game Thursday night and later appear at the fan-oriented Jam Session.

Le Batard, who also writes for ESPN The Magazine, quoted Amaechi in a Miami Herald column saying the ex-NBA player was grateful for Hardaway's words.

"Finally, someone who is honest," he said. "It is ridiculous, absurd, petty, bigoted and shows a lack of empathy that is gargantuan and unfathomable. But it is honest. And it illustrates the problem better than any of the fuzzy language other people have used so far."

Thursday morning, on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike in the Morning, Amaechi said although the reaction to his coming out has been "overwhelmingly positive," Hardaway's comments seemed to trigger similar statements from others.

"Every comment that [Hardaway] made is labeled with hate," Amaechi said. "The percentage of e-mails I've received overnight that are going to have to go into a little box somewhere just in case I end up dead are unbelievable. He's been a lightning rod for people to finally open the floodgates and decide that they can say some pretty awful stuff.

"I will say this about the Tim Hardaway comments and the comments of people like him ... these are the loud comments that pollute the air," Amaechi said. "These are the comments that create the atmosphere that allow some of the tragic incidents of homophobia that we've seen. This is what makes the lives of gay and lesbian young people in schools miserable. It's what stops gay and lesbian people in the workplace from coming out as well as the fact they can be fined in 33 states for being gay. These are part of the problem."

Hardaway apologized late on Wednesday for the remarks during a telephone interview with Fox affiliate WSVN-TV in Miami.

"Yes, I regret it. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said I hate gay people or anything like that," he said. "That was my mistake."

Hardaway played for five NBA teams from 1990-2003 and was a five-time All-Star. He finished with averages of 17.7 points and 8.2 assists.

On Mike & Mike on Thursday morning, Amaechi also said he was heartened by the NBA's response to Hardaway's comments.

"I think Commissioner Stern is absolutely right. ... I've been in contact with the NBA offices and it is not the views of the NBA as an organization," he said. "I don't think that people give NBA players enough credit ... some of them definitely don't agree with those views"

Two major gay and lesbian groups denounced Hardaway's remarks.

"Hardaway's comments are vile, repulsive and indicative of the climate of ignorance, hostility and prejudice that continues to pervade sports culture," said Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "And by apologizing not for his bigotry but rather for giving voice to it, he's reminding us that this ugly display is only the tip of a very large iceberg."

Said Matt Foreman, president of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force: "Hardaway is a hero to thousands of young people. And that's what makes his comments so troubling. Sadly, his words simply put the pervasive homophobia in the NBA on the table."

Amaechi taped a spot Thursday for PBS' gay and lesbian program "In the Life." He said the anti-gay sentiment remains despite Hardaway's apology.

"It's vitriolic, and may be exactly what he feels," he said. "Whether he's honest or not doesn't inoculate us from his words. It's not progress to hear hateful words."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.