Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why Don't You Trust Me Enough To Let Me Avoid You?

It's seemed rather pointless to weigh in on the whole Tim Hardaway thing, given that it's been, shall we say, adequately covered in the media. However, if you didn't catch Scoop Jackson's interview with Timmy over on ESPN Page 2, it provides an interesting coda. Tim echoes a sentiment first expressed by LeBron James in reaction to Amaechi's coming out: it's a "trust issue." "With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you're gay and you're not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy," James said. Hardaway uses almost exactly the same language: "But if a guy, like they say, is in the closet and decides to come out of the closet years down the line, you feel that your friendship, him being a teammate, being a part of a team, which in a lot of ways is like being part of a family or fraternity, has been betrayed. You feel like you've been double-crossed. We were in battles together, we were in the trenches together, how could you not tell me?" (italics his).

LBJ's comment was given some scrutiny, Hardaway's somewhat less (apart from Deadspin's calling him a "gleefully unapologetic moron," which I think gets to the heart of the matter). Here's the thing that bugs me about that comment coming from Hardaway, LBJ somewhat less (but only because I don't know how LBJ really feels): they say that hiding that part of your life is a betrayal of trust, that a teammate should be honest with his teammates. By doing so, they're trying to deflect the blame onto the victim. See, if only he'd been open, there'd be no problem. It's his fault for keeping it a secret. That is, pardon my French, a load of crap. What that comment really means is, Holy shit, if I'm gonna be showering with these guys and going full-contact in practices, I want to know if any of them is thinking about my junk. That isn't a "trust issue." It's a homophobia issue. It's LBJ and Hardaway thinking that if they have a gay teammate and don't know it, that means they can't take some measure to "protect themselves" (perhaps thinking of Chris Kaman, below).

Hardaway mentions a friend who felt "violated" after a friend of his came out several years later. Violated? Because, what, this guy was gay near him and he didn't know? Get a clue, morons: your teammate's sexuality is nothing to do with you. I don't know how much plainer it can be than that. It's his decision to tell you or not. It's part of his private life. And the fact that John Amaechi didn't feel comfortable telling any of his teammates--even the ones who guessed--tells you that he didn't want to live with the awkwardness and the homophobia that would inevitably arise from his revelation. It tells you that he didn't trust his teammates to accept that part of his life, that even though they were "in the trenches" together, he didn't feel comfortable sharing his sexuality with them.

That, boys, is your trust issue. So quit blaming the gay teammates who know that coming out will only result in hard times from you and your friends. Understand that you're the ones standing in the way, be a man, and grow the hell up.

* To be fair to Hardaway, although he remains fairly homophobic, he does say that this experience taught him a lot about gay people, like that "they work hard, they do things in the community, they are responsible for building parks, rec centers, providing safe environments for kids, just things I had never associated with them before." Baby steps, Tim. Baby steps.

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