Kobe Bryant's homophobic slur has received a heap of criticism, as well as a heavy fine from the NBA.
After the outburst, and the backlash against it, Bryant issued a written statement.
The statement read: What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.
Though Bryant should be ashamed of the outburst, he at least distanced himself from the comment, and has no history of homophobic remarks or incidents. The Lakers' star used a derogatory term and didn't make any detailed rant about ill-feelings toward gays.
One former NBA player went on such a diatribe against gays, and when given the immediate opportunity to recant his remarks, he decided to take those comments a step further.
Roughly four years after retiring, Tim Hardaway, an NBA point guard of 13 seasons, and a five-time All-Star, went on a radio show in February 2007, and made some very inflammatory comments.
These comments followed the announcement of John Amaechi, a retired NBA center who played roughly five seasons and who had recently gone public about being gay.
When asked about how he would deal with a gay teammate, this is the way Hardaway responded:
Whoa. First of all, I wouldn't want him on my team. And second of all ... if he was on my team ... I would really distance myself from him because I don't think that's right, and I don't think he should be in the locker room while we're in the locker room. And it's just a whole lot of other things, so I wouldn't even be a part of that. But stuff like that is going on, and there's a lot of other people I hear that are like that, and still in the closet, and don't want to come out of the closet, but you know I just leave that alone.
Radio host, and Miami Herald columnist, Dan LeBatard didn't let the comments slide. You know that what you're saying there though, Timmy, is flattly homophobic, right? It's just flatly ... it's bigotry, said LeBatard.
You know, I hate gay people, so ... I let it be known, responded Hardaway. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. Yeah, 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.
Such harsh words received a swift media reaction and Hardaway was quick to apologize.
Unlike with Bryant, Hardaway recanting his comments rang very hollow. He seemed to regret expressing the comments, but didn't mind feeling the way he felt.
But the good news in the Hardaway story was his recovery. Instead of ducking the spotlight and letting his modest attempt at reconciling with an offended audience stand alone, Hardaway took action to correct his thinking.
After the incident, Hardaway would find his way to the Trevor Project, a national 24-hour, toll-free confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth, as well as the Yes Institute, a Miami-based children's advocacy group that uses education and communication to promote healthy understanding of gender and orientation.
I just wanted to go in and get educated, that's all. Get educated on what I said and why I said those things, Hardaway said in an interview with The Associated Press. I'm working on understanding it now. I'm not really trying to make amends. I've been there trying to get help.
Rachel Sottile, the executive director at the Yes Institute, believes Hardaway has made a great recovery, and spoke highly of Hardaway as a person while crediting his years of education and participation at Yes for his change.
Through education, he's changed, Sottile said. Education made him a different person.
In the testosterone-intense atmosphere of professional sports, it's not surprising that homophobic slurs and homophobic feelings like Hardaway's February 2007 comments exist.
But Hardaway proves that athletes are capable of growth, and perhaps more exposure to worthwhile groups that promote tolerance might be useful for all of us.