Dennis Rodman escaped suspension Thursday, as expected, but still drew the wrath of the NBA again, this time getting a record $50,000 fine for a series of expletive-laced comments about Mormons while the Chicago Bulls were in Utah for the finals.
His words having already been condemned by the Salt Lake City chapter of the NAACP, Rodman apologized Thursday after the Bulls had returned home with a 3-2 lead and the chance to win another title tonight at the United Center.
But it was too late, even though the league waited several days to discipline him for the comments.
“I have indicated in previous actions that insensitive or derogatory comments involving race or other classifications are unacceptable in the NBA,” Commissioner David Stern said. “Dennis Rodman’s comments were exactly the kind of offensive remarks that cannot be tolerated or excused.”
Meanwhile in Anaheim, CKE Restaurants Inc. dropped a TV commercial, starring Rodman, for its Carl’s Jr. chain.
“CKE does not tolerate derogatory comments made about any group or religion,” company spokeswoman Suzi Brown said. “So in light of the comments made, we had no choice but to pull the ads.”
Rodman’s contract allows Carl’s Jr. to run the commercials through May 1998, but Brown said, “The advertisements will not run again.”
The company had dropped Rodman’s commercial earlier in the year, when he was suspended for kicking a TV cameraman, then resumed using it.
This is the third time Rodman has been fined this season. He was assessed a then-record-tying $25,000 in January for kicking the cameraman during a game in Minneapolis, and $7,500 in March for hitting Joe Wolf of the Milwaukee Bucks in the groin.
The 11-game suspension Rodman also got for the Minnesota incident, worth about $1 million, makes the monetary loss from that much greater. But for actual fines, the latest is twice as much as any other in NBA history.
Two others have also been penalized $25,000, Nick Van Exel of the Lakers in April 1996 for shoving an official, and Coach John Calipari of the New Jersey Nets earlier this year for an ethnic slur directed at a reporter.
Earlier Thursday, Rodman apologized for the comments he made during the Bulls’ stay in Salt Lake City, headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said he did not mean to insult an entire religion.
“That was a bad action on my part,” Rodman said. “So we retract that.
“Like I said, I would have said it if we were in Houston or anything else. . . . But if I knew it was like a religious-type deal, I would have never said it. I’m sorry about that.”
Rodman said he was unhappy with Jazz fans in Salt Lake City, not the Mormon religion.
“The people were giving me the finger and things like that. . . . I think it’s kind of screwed up the league has to get involved, and everybody is putting pressure on them to fine me.”
Said Bull Coach Phil Jackson, “To Dennis, a Mormon may just be a nickname for people from Utah. He may not even know it’s a religious cult or sect or whatever it is.”
Times staff writer Greg Johnson contributed to this story from Anaheim.
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Largest fines levied against players by the NBA listed with player, team, and infraction:
* $50,000: Dennis Rodman, Chicago Bulls, for his offensive statements concerning the Mormon population in Salt Lake City.
* $25,000: Nick Van Exel, Lakers, for shoving referee Ron Garretson during a game against the Denver Nuggets, April 10, 1996.
* $25,000: Dennis Rodman, Chicago Bulls, for kicking a courtside television photographer during a game at Minnesota, Jan. 17, 1997.
* $20,000: Bill Laimbeer, Detroit Pistons, for his involvement in fight during a playoff game with the Philadelphia 76ers, April 20, 1990.
* $20,000: Charles Barkley, Philadelphia 76ers, for his involvement in fight during a playoff game with the Detroit Pistons, April 20, 1990.
* $20,000: Greg Anthony, New York Knicks, for coming off the bench in street clothes and punching Phoenix guard Kevin Johnson during a brawl, March 24, 1993.
* $20,000: Vernon Maxwell, Houston Rockets, for running into the stands and punching a heckler during a game at Portland, Feb. 8, 1995.
* $20,000: Dennis Rodman, Chicago Bulls, for head-butting referee Ted Bernhardt and other outbursts during a game at New Jersey on March 17, 1996.
Bulls lead series, 3-2
* Game 1: Chicago 84, Utah 82
* Game 2: Chicago 97, Utah 85
* Game 3: Utah 104, Chicago 93
* Game 4: Utah 78, Chicago 73
* Game 5: Chicago 90, Utah 88
* Tonight--at Chicago, 6
* Sunday--at Chicago, 4:30
Utah at Chicago
6 p.m., Channel 4
* RECORD TELECAST: Estimated 60 million viewers watched Game 5. C13