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Tim Hardaway, you are dead to me

I've never really liked Tim Hardaway, even when he was a player.  One of my fondest memories was attending a 1998 Wizards-Heat game in Usair Arena.  The Heat were one of the best teams in the league, having made the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals.  I despised them with a passion, because, led by Pat Riley, they illustrated everything wrong with the game.  The Wizards, on the other hand, had just changed their name, but were coming off one of their most successful seasons in recent history.  With a frontcourt of Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, and Gheorghe Muresan along with Rod Strickland and Cool Cal, the Bullets/Wizards had made the playoffs the previous season and had put a scare in the Bulls.  With 5 seconds left, the Wizards took a one-point lead, and the Heat were out of timeouts.  They threw it in to Hardaway, who spun away from both Webber and Strickland, drove to the lane, and hit an uncontested runner to give Miami the win.  Juwan Howard and Tracy Murray literally stood there instead of doing anything.  Great defense, guys.

Anyway, that was just an irrational reason to disown the guy.  But now, I have a real reason, after what Hardaway said to Dan LeBetard on his radio show.  

You know, 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. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States.

I heard the news on Sportscenter, and my jaw dropped.  There's rarely anything I hear that shocks me to that degree.  This news did.

Making matters even worse is that LeBetard gave Hardaway not one, but two chances to back down and rescind his comments.  Instead of doing so, Hardaway went even further and said even more homophobic things.  He ended up speaking for every NBA player, implying that all 12 members of a locker room will be thrown off if there is a gay person in there.  

This really was awful news, because even though Amaechi was not a current NBA player, his coming out was the sign of progress.  Now, with Hardaway's comments, I'm worried this will be an incredible setback.  I'm very disturbed that no current player has spoken out against Hardaway publically, and it makes me wonder about some of the wishy-washy comments from stars like LeBron last week.  

Also, to make it clear, the argument that we should not be upset at Hardaway because of free speech is pure BS.  First of all, free speech is not universally free.  It never has been.  Free speech has never meant that you're "allowed" to say whatever you want, whenever you want.  Slander or libel has always been against the law, and there are many court cases involving conflicts in these areas.  Secondly, even if free speech was universally free, then it's simply hypocritical to   lambast those who call Hardaway homophobic and criticize his words.  You're always free to say something, but those that disagree are also free to disagree in whatever manner they chose, by that logic.  It's a two-way street.

This is a major story.  It's much bigger than anything going on with the Wizards, and it's much bigger than anything that's happening this weekend.  I really hope that some player is willing to speak up to shoot down Hardaway's claims.