Lakers’ Kobe Bryant is fined $100,000 by NBA for anti-gay slur to referee
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 by the NBA on Wednesday and criticized by numerous gay-rights groups for directing an anti-gay slur at referee Bennie Adams during a game Tuesday against San Antonio.
Bryant was irritated after he was called for an offensive foul and received his 15th technical of the season during the game. He punched a chair on the Lakers’ bench before he sat, threw down a towel and yelled “Bennie!” before muttering a curse word followed by the word “faggot.”
His outburst was captured on TV and prompted TNT analyst Steve Kerr to immediately say, “You might want to take the camera off him right now, for the children watching from home.”
Wednesday became a day of statements and more statements, followed by the NBA’s fine and Bryant’s radio interview on “Mason & Ireland” on 710 ESPN.
Bryant said he planned on talking to the gay-rights groups and also wanted to “own up” to his comments. However, he also said he would appeal the fine, one of the heaviest levied by the NBA this season. Bryant makes $302,515 per regular-season game.
NBA Commissioner David Stern called Bryant’s outburst “offensive and inexcusable.”
“While I’m fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated,” Stern said in a statement. “Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society.”
The Human Rights Campaign, a national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, called it a “disgrace” for Bryant to “use such horribly offensive and distasteful language, especially when millions of people are watching.”
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, added an equally critical statement.
“Professional sports players need to set a better example for young people who use words like this on the playground and in our schools, creating a climate of intolerance and hostility,” GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios said.
Earlier Wednesday, Bryant issued a statement of his own, saying his comment “should not be taken literally.”
“My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period,” he said. “The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.”
The HRC said Bryant didn’t go far enough because he didn’t issue a formal apology.
During the radio interview, Bryant provided more detail.
“The concern that I have is for those that follow what I say, and are inspired by how I play, or look to me as a role model … they’re not to take what was said as something that is a message of hate or a license to degrade or embarrass or tease,” he said. “That’s something I don’t want to see happen.”
Bryant should have been more cautious with his words on the court, TNT analyst Charles Barkley said.
“I’m a big pro-gay-marriage person; I have a bunch of gay friends who I hope can get married some day, so I’m a little bit sensitive,” Barkley said. “But I’m not going to go overboard. You have to just be careful what you say with stuff like that.”
Times staff writer Diane Pucin contributed to this report.
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