Thursday, February 15, 2007

Coming out of the Locker Room Redux

Ally and Sylvia, Palm Springs, California 2006
The other shoe dropped today. Interestingly, the response to ex-NBA baller John Amaechi coming out as a gay man last weekend has been pretty tame. One player said he didn't want to be exposed to a teammate's "gayness", another said the media was making too big of a deal about it and a couple others said it wouldn't be easy to have a gay teammate.

But the biggest criticism so far as been that Amaechi didn't come out soon enough.

We're still waiting for the first gay man to admit to being gay while he's actually an employed professional athlete. And yes, do not check your calendars -- it is still the 21st Century. Well, I'm not waiting for that day but rather the day when admitting your gay is as shocking as admitting you break the speed limit.

But the real hate parade has apparently only just begun. Ex-NBA point guard Tim Hardaway said this during an appearance Wednesday on Dan Le Batard's sports talk radio show, Sports Talk 790 in Miami:

"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."

His remarks were not provoked by Le Batard, who simply asked him what he would do if he found out one of his teammates was gay. His first response was that he'd want the guy off the team and that being in the locker room with him would make him "uncomfortable."

Is it any wonder why gay athletes stay in the closet?

I've said it here before but to me being homophobic is the last bastion of bigotry in America. Here in NoCal, I heard a local sports talk guy rail on about how Hardaway's remarks are going to bring him a world of hurt. And even Hardaway apologized later Wednesday and an interview broadcast on a Fox Sports TV affiliate, but I'm betting nothing happens to him, nothing that affects his future in or around basketball. A lot of people think gay people are not normal or dangerous or sinners.

My friends will tell you that I'm uncomfortable around sex talk and it's true -- I like the idea of privacy and I think it's important in a world where people admit their most humiliating secrets on national television, to honor everyone's private life. Whatever you do as two consenting adults is your business -- just don't give me the gory details, you know?

But that's not good enough in America. America has been overrun by what I believe to be a minority group of extremely religious people who say they are doing God's will but are only spreading hate. I don't have to list the main culprits here, but the fact is homophobia is imprinted on to our cultural DNA to a point where one man's sexual orientation is a threat to another man, even if the subject never comes up.

Seems to me we've got a whole lot of very insecure guys out there.

I heard someone say recently -- someone who I consider smart, who's been around the block a time or two -- that she would worry if one of her son's elementary teachers was gay. She didn't want her son exposed to the lifestyle at such a young age. It doesn't matter to her that a gay man would normally never be interested in a child (that would make him a pedophile which is like calling a butcher a serial killer) and it doesn't matter that any teacher that brought his or her private sexual life in front of elementary school students would be out of a job before the bell for the next class.

It's okay to be ignorant and stupid about gay people because so many of the falsehoods (like they want to rape our sons) repeated about them are so widely believed. You would think that we would've have gotten past this by now, but there's just too many people in our country who refuse to let facts muddy their beliefs.

Interesting, in Le Batard's column based on Hardaway's comments, that runs in today's Miami Herald, Amaechi said that he was glad someone finally came out and said what they really feel about having a gay teammate.

``Finally, someone who is honest," he tells Le Batard. "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.''

In Amaechi's view, this kind of talk will only open up more dialogue on the subject, which is what he was after in deciding to tell his secret to the world in the first place. I guess.

The choice to come out of the closet shouldn't be a political one. It should be a personal, private decision for the person making it -- and no one else. Having said that, I'm rooting for a big time athlete to come out loud and proud -- while he's still actively playing his sport. The bigger his star, the better. When that happens (and it most surely will some day) then maybe we can do away with all these silly, ignorant myths -- and get onto something more important.

That's right, sports fans, this week is pitchers and catchers!

EDITED TO ADD: The news that Timmy H. has been banned from his appearances at the All-Star Weekend in Vegas, which means that S.O.L. is wrong, quite happily so. I watched TNT's post game last night (after Lebron out-Kobe'd the Lakers, who lost their fifth in a row) and liked what the guys had to say there. Especially Charles Barkley who came with the (and I'm paraphrasing not quoting him here) "if you think you've never played with a gay man on your team sometime in your life, you're crazy" take.

NBA Commish David Stern had this to say in a statement released after banning Hardaway from making appearances at NBA-sanctioned events this weekend:

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.

I'm sure we'll see how big a disparity it really is. Stay tuned, sports fans.


susie said...

Hahahaha! pitchers and catchers - you funny Zib.

I read what Tim Hardaway said and the translation device in my head went, "I have spent my whole life terrified of the fact that I like the naked men and ass smacking in the locker room so very much."

If an athlete is a real professional then the only thing that should matter at the end of the day is whether the other guy is a worthy teammate or challenger.

Hardaway didn't come off sounding like a real man to me, but rather more like a scared little bitch.

Undercover Black Man said...

I wonder if "LT" is letting his insecurities show a little bit?