When Tim Hardaway this month placed his signature atop a gay-rights initiative in Florida, it was much less an expression in support of a polarizing issue than another milestone in one man's journey toward enlightenment.
It also was a manifestation of the power of education and awareness.
It was, you may recall, Hardaway who during a 2007 radio interview said he "hated'' gay people, didn't want to be near them and wouldn't bother to hide his revulsion. To reiterate, the former Warriors star, then three years into retirement and living in Florida, added a two-word exclamation point: "I'm homophobic.''
I asked Tim this week to convey what was on his mind at the time. He said "nothing,'' and there is every reason to take him literally.
His evolution, then, is not so much a matter of political expedience but of mind engagement. With the benefits of education and awareness, Hardaway has spent much of his time since as a beacon of tolerance and unity.
"We need to respect them as human beings who should have the same rights as any other human beings,'' Hardaway said.
Yet for that brief but very dark moment, one of the most electrifying players in NBA history was the unwitting face and spokesman for intolerance and divisiveness and hate -- emphasis on unwitting.
It has become evident that Hardaway, perhaps adhering to a prefabricated veneer of street machismo, had issued a spectacularly thoughtless exhibition of ignorance that left him momentarily deaf to his own words. Put simply, he spoke without benefit of thought.