2007-02-22 / This Week's Attitude

This Week's Attitude Homophobia Remains Our Most Accepted Prejudice

By Neil S. Friedman

As usual, there was little defense in last weekend's NBA All-Star game in Las Vegas with more than 270 points scored. But days before the tip-off, a controversy erupted that could have overshadowed the weekend's festivities if not for the swift action of the league and Commissioner David Stern.

More than a week before All-Star weekend, John Amaechi became the first former NBA player to admit he was gay. Amaechi's motive for coming-out wasn't exactly selfless since he was promoting his new book, with the double entendre title, "Man in the Middle," in which he details his closeted experience in the macho-dominated professional sport.

Several days later another former player, Tim Hardaway, who was a five time All-Star and scheduled to make several public appearances on behalf of the NBA before Saturday's game, candidly admitted he was homophobic in a radio interview, emphatically saying, "I hate gay people…I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people."

He also said that if he ever knew a teammate was gay, he would have requested the player be removed from the team.

Hardaway had every right to make those remarks and admit his homophobia, even though he later apologized and said he regretted it. Accordingly, the NBA had every right to suitably respond by banishing him from any league-related activities last weekend and for the future.

Upon barring the former NBA veteran for Miami and Golden State, Stern said it was "inappropriate" for Hardaway to represent the league.

Tim Hardaway undoubtedly said what a lot of people think, but keep to themselves - they just don't like gay people. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but discretion is advisable, especially for someone in a public position. As an NBA representative, he would have been wiser to keep his feelings to himself. Moreover, for an African-American living in a society where racial bigotry still rears its ugly head more than 40 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, it would have been more practical for Hardaway to keep his homophobia undisclosed.

The Hardaway hullabaloo comes in the wake of another anti-gay incident that occurred last fall on the set of the hit ABC-TV series, "Grey's Anatomy." Actor Isaiah Washington, who, coincidentally, is black like Hardaway, allegedly referred to fellow cast mate T.R. Knight as a f----t (I choose not to use the derogatory term used to describe homosexuals, as I did not use the N word when I recently wrote about that debate). Another member of the ethnically mixed ensemble cast, Patrick Dempsey, who is white, reportedly objected to Washington's name calling and got into a brawl with him. Tabloid stories said that during the melee Washington pushed Dempsey up against a wall and began choking him before the scuffle was broken up. However, tempers on the set reportedly remained heated for days, as cast members shunned Washington, who later entered rehab (for bigots?) during a short leave of absence. Incidentally, after the incident, Knight revealed his homosexuality in a People magazine interview rather than have the tabloids taunt him about it.

The fact the show's producers took no punitive action - whether temporary suspension without pay or outright dismissal - against Washington is utterly inexcusable. If another cast or crew member blurted "n----r" at Washington, it's almost certain that he/she would have been fired on the spot! While two sexy white characters in the show are called McDreamy and McSteamy, no one would dare refer to the muscular Washington's character as McDarky.

It would seem that our civilized society overwhelmingly condemns racial prejudice, but still condones and tolerates a substantial degree of bias towards homosexuals.

As a matter of fact, in reporting the "Grey's" incident, several newspapers chose to spell out the F word, while most of the same media rarely used the N word when reporting the Michael Richards nightclub outburst several months ago.

Two prejudices, two different standards of looking at them.

Some argue that being biased against blacks is different from hating gays because the former are obviously born with their skin color, while men and women, some believe, choose to be homosexuals.

What a load of illogical crap!

Our religious institutions and our schools are supposed to teach the Golden Rule, but obviously, some people missed or opted to ignore that essential ethics lesson.

Blacks can't conceal or change their skin color, but many young men might choose to - momentarily - when they're racially profiled, stopped and frisked by overzealous police officers.

Science has confirmed that one does not choose his/her sexuality. Homosexuality may be latent in some cases because society and culture tend to disapprove of those who prefer same sex relationships, so they opt to remain "in the closet" until they openly admit their sexual preference or are outed in some manner.

While homosexual activity is abhorrent to some, prejudice against them, blacks, Jews and other minorities is a practice chiefly for the ignorant.

Except for devoted friends, and even then, unless you have a vivid imagination, few of us know what goes on behind close doors between homosexuals or heterosexuals. One man or woman's pleasure may be completely repulsive to another, regardless of sexual preference.

While Tim Hardaway maintains his homophobia, perhaps an interviewer should ask him his opinion on NBA players and other professional athletes who occasionally make headlines off the court when they cheat on and beat their wives, have babies out of wedlock and regularly hang out with strippers.

Surely, many Americans frown upon that type of behavior, but don't let it get in the way of enjoying the sport. But when a player, movie star or politician is labeled a homosexual, they are reviled and scorned.

Though we live in a free-thinking culture, we should nevertheless remember that there is something wrong with that !

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