Some pretty high-profile individuals can say some pretty uneducated and insensitive things about other people. But when it happens, it's not a time to effectively ban such speech. Rather, it's time to talk about what misconceptions would cause that sort of speech to occur. It's also important to remember that everyone has his or her right to an opinion.
I think homosexual activity is wrong. I think it is a perversion of normal sexual behavior as much as is promiscuous heterosexual activity. But I don't think that we should treat as a pariah anyone who either has such inclinations (homo- or hetero-), or even anyone who acts on them.
When I first heard that former Utah Jazz basketball player John Amaechi is a homosexual, I thought, "So what?" I was actually kind of angry that the Deseret News made such a big deal out of what I thought was not much of a news story.
Then I heard Tim Hardaway's radio comments the other night, and I thought, was that really Tim Hardaway? He said, in part:
You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people.
First of all, I wouldn't want him on my team. Second of all, you know, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him.
I wonder if Tim Hardaway has ever known any homosexuals. He has a great deal of mis-pre-conceived notions about them. I've known a some homosexual people over the years, and probably more than I've realized, because they generally don't make it an issue. Some of them--female athletes--were good friends. But most homosexuals are like most heterosexuals--their sexuality is essentially a private thing.
So I think Hardaway's statements are inane, but he has a right be be inane if he wants to.
But then National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern did something equally inane. He banned Tim Hardaway from NBA All-Star weekend this weekend.
"It is inappropriate for him to be representing us given the disparity between his views and ours," Stern said in a statement Thursday.
Obviously Hardaway's views don't match those of the NBA. Very probably Hardaway's views don't really match those that Hardaway expressed on the radio recently. But now it's going to be a bit harder to find out.
It's important to let people express their opinions, even when the opinions are stupid. Out of controversy can come understanding, even when it's simply to respectfully disagree. But when speech is banned, as in this case by Commissioner Stern, we don't get the chance to engender the much needed respect for different opinions and people that we need.
Even if John Amaechi thinks Stern made the right choice, I don't. The process has been short circuited. And an important debate about homosexuality has been missed.