Aug 22, 2011 2:20 PM GMT
El Paso TimesBasketball legend Tim Hardaway on Wednesday called on El Pasoans to grow up as he's had to when it comes to homosexuality.
In town for a golf outing, Hardaway attended a press conference urging citizens to oppose recall efforts against Mayor John Cook and city Reps. Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega. The three are being recalled by a group of religious conservatives who are angry the three voted to restore health benefits for gay and unmarried partners of city employees -- despite a ballot initiative in November that had abolished them.
In asking citizens to oppose the recall, Hardaway said he was asking them not to do what he did.
Hardaway, a standout at the University of Texas at El Paso and a five-time NBA all-star, got into hot water in 2007 when he went on the radio and said, "You know, I hate gay people, so let it be known," according to the ESPN website. "I don't like gay people and I don't want to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the United States."
Faced with a backlash from friends, family and the NBA, Hardaway quickly apologized for what he said.
"I opened my eyes and went to counseling," he said Thursday...
"I would say grow up and catch up with the times," he said. "It's all around the world."
Hardaway said that what made his earlier statements especially shameful is that, as a black man, he should understand discrimination. And so should El Paso, as it has in the past, he said.
He recalled how in 1966 at the height of the civil rights movement, his former coach, Don Haskins, led a team with five black starters past an all-white University of Kentucky team to win a national championship.
"A lot of people said, 'What is Don Haskins doing?' " Hardaway said. "But El Paso understood."