I believe it started as a simple discussion on hoops-life in the modern era on Miami Herald sports columnist and WAXY-AM radio host Dan Le Batard’s afternoon program. There were no controversies supposedly planned for the broadcast.

Former Miami Heat point guard Tim Hardaway, a five-time NBA all star, was a guest on the show. Le Batard asked Hardaway, a potent offensive player in his day, what he felt about the recent news of former NBA player John Amaechi openly acknowledging that he is a homosexual.

Shifting into a ‘Michael Richards-like’ mode, the generally well-liked Hardaway, who’s since retired, unloaded a different kind of offensive.

“I hate gay people,” Hardaway said. “I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or the United States.”

Understandably, Le Batard was shocked.

“I didn’t know how to handle it,” Le Batard told the Associated Press last week. “I should have asked 10 more minutes worth of questions. Instead, I just went to a break. I was just stunned.”

What makes Hardaway’s tirade all the more ironic is the fact that it comes just two weeks after a column by Michael Wilbon, host of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption and columnist for the Washington Post, spotlighting the NBA for its long established history of inclusiveness.

Unlike the NFL, which had two black coaches in the Super Bowl for the first time ever in 2007, and its first black coach to win the title, the NBA has had a few black coaches win the NBA championship, including Lenny Wilkins, who coached the Seattle Supersonics to the 1979 NBA title that year.

Al Attles, who coached the Golden State Warriors, and KC Jones, coach of the Washington Bullets, became the first black coaches to compete against one another in the same Finals series more than 30 years ago.

But Bill Russell had already become the first black coach of a professional team in 1967 with the Boston Celtics (he continued to play for the team). He reached the Finals the following year, the first black coach to do so.

I think Sun-Times sportswriter Rick Telander put it best in his column when he cites biblical teachings as one of the primary justifications for this country’s knee-jerk reaction to homosexuality.

It has long been considered by some to be against ‘the Lord’s will’ for those of the same sex to court one another, especially among African-Americans, themselves victims of prejudice.

Why speak out against one type of prejudice while backing another? Shouldn’t we as African-Americans be the most open-minded of all groups?

Shouldn’t we love all people regardless of race and sexual orientation, notwithstanding our own spiritual or religious beliefs? What happened to, “God loves all his children?”

Hardaway not only hates gay people, but doesn’t want to be around them and doesn’t want them around him.

But when it really comes down to it, what is the fear of being a teammate of a homosexual athlete? If you don’t want him to see you undressed wear a towel, like male athletes do all the time in front of female reporters.

The “good job” butt slap, which athletes sometimes give each other in almost every sport, might take on an added significance if delivered to or by gay teammate, but any “threat” is just a perception at best.

What’s the fear? That a teammate will make unwanted advances toward his heterosexual teammates? Maybe. However, with all the recent cases involving straight men and women stalking and, in some cases, maiming the objects of their desire, I hardly think a greater threat lies in a potential homosexual crush in a locker room.

Hardaway did apologize for his comments, taking a page out of Mel Gibson’s and Isaiah Washington’s book, titled No comment is too bad that it can’t be apologized away. But despite that, Hardaway’s initial tirade shows a lack of good judgment and respect for the lessons learned throughout our own struggle with prejudice.

It doesn’t matter if you say that you’re “justified,” because that’s what your bible tells you. Slave owners and racist southern preachers justified slavery and segregation for years because “the bible told them so.”

Prejudice is never justified, whether the victim is black, white, homosexual or an atheist.

I would recommend that Mr. Hardaway read some of the literature by African-American -and homosexual scholars- such as James Baldwin, whose Go Tell it On the Mountain is still one of the great works in modern literature. Perhaps Hardaway can reacquaint himself with how far he has come because of the accomplishments of African Americans and homosexuals.