Tim Hardaway says he still cringes when reminded of words he spat 10 years ago.
Appearing on Dan Le Batard’s Miami radio show a decade ago, Hardaway — who starred for the Heat from 1996-2001 — said “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. So, yeah, I don’t like it.”
In a lengthy story appearing in the Washington Post on Thursday, Hardaway says much has changed and he has become a gay rights activist over the years.
As far as the comments made to Le Batard a decade ago, Hardaway says he is not that guy anymore and hasn’t been for a long time.
“When I said what I said . . . I still cringe at it when I think about it, and [it] still hurts me deep inside that I said something like that because I gave people an opportunity to hurt people,” Hardaway told the Post in a phone interview.
“It hurts me to this day, what I said, and you know what? It’s going to hurt me for the rest of my life, because I’m not that type of person. I feel bad about it, and I’m always going to feel bad about it,” said Hardaway, who in 2009 co-sponsored a South Beach fundraiser for the Trevor Project, a national suicide prevention group for LGBTQ youth.
Hardaway’s hurtful words came when discussing John Amaechi — a former NBA center who now joins Le Batard’s national radio show on ESPN Radio — and his decision to come out.
Le Batard had asked Hardaway how he would handle having a gay teammate.
Amaechi responded to the Washington Post story with a tweet: “It's strange with all that rehabilitation & angst - Tim has never found the time to actually talk to the me. Must have been an oversight.”
Jason Collins doesn’t have the same reaction.
When Collins came out in a Sports Illustrated cover story in 2013, one of the people he heard from offering his support was Hardaway.
“I get asked what was the most surprising [call] after making my announcement,” Collins told the Post, “and, yes, getting the call from the president and Oprah and all of that was surprising. But getting a call from Tim Hardaway is right up there, because I didn’t know he had changed as a human being, as far as being what happened with his comments when John came out, and now becoming an ally.
“It shows the power of the coming-out story. It shows the power of John Amaechi’s story. Tim obviously said what he said and was met with a lot of criticism and was forced to look at himself in the mirror and has changed a lot. . . . I’m glad I answered the call and heard his words.”
Said former Heat and current Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy: “I think what Tim had was a genuine change of heart. That is what he meant when he said it, and the incident made him stop and think about it and why he had the feelings he did.
“He had those feelings, he was forced to think about it, he changed his mind, he changed his heart, and there’s been nothing like that since. As a matter of fact, he’s gone out of his way to be supportive of the LGBTQ community. But the way he handled it to me speaks better of his character.”