Karen Ocamb

Kobe Fined $100,000 for Antigay Slur During NBA Playoff Game

Filed By Karen Ocamb | April 14, 2011 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: basketball, faggot, Kobe Bryant, NBA, referee, slur

The New York Times reports that LA Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant will be fined $100,000 Kobe_Bryant_Washington.jpgfor apparently hurling an antigay slur at a referee during the heated playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs, which was broadcast live.

On Wednesday, Bryant released a statement: "What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone."

The Times reported, however, that NBA Commissioner David Stern took the incident serious. "Kobe Bryant's comment during last night's game was offensive and inexcusable,'' Stern said in a statement. "While I'm fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated....Kobe and everyone associated with the N.B.A. know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society."

Interestingly, in this news clip, a sports commentator said that such insults happen routinely. He also predicted that the fine, if any, would be modest, which $100,000 to millionaire Kobe Bryant may well be:

In a pre-game phone call to HRC president Joe Solmonese last night, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant apologized for using a homophobic slur. Bryant expressed understanding and regret for how his words were hurtful and could be used by some to discriminate.

The following is a statement from HRC's Solmonese:

I applaud Kobe Bryant for his swift apology. We had a very sincere conversation in which he expressed his heartfelt regret for the hurt that his words caused. He told me that it's never ok to degrade or tease, and that he understands how his words could unfortunately give the wrong impression that this is appropriate conduct. At the end of a difficult day, I applaud Kobe for coming forward and taking responsibility for his actions.

cross-posted at LGBT POV, img Wikipedia

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With all due respect to HRC and the good work that they do, Kobe Bryant's phone call apology to HRC and HRC's subsequent statement is going to make far, far less of an impact compared to Kobe uttering the words "f--kin f--" on national TV the night before, and the average American won't realize that he apologized. If Kobe is really a straight ally for the LGBT community, it's as if he is trying his best to keep that part of himself in the closet. What Kobe should really do is put himself behind the camera and directly tell his fans that 1) he takes full responsibility for what he did, 2) he apologizes, 3) he tells everyone that his actions further homophobia and hurt LGBT people, 4) he welcomes LGBT fans to NBA games, and 5) he supports and celebrates LGBT players on NBA teams to come out of their closets and be themselves. That would make a far, far more lasting impact than a phone call to HRC that the average person wouldn't see.

Such discreet apologizing is useless. Homophobes are often two-faced like this. They shine you on in private and then continue to mock you publically.

He apologized to Joe Solmonese? Is Joe now the king of the gays?

Alex! ... You mean you never read that memo??!!

I'm curious - how many other sports people have said, "faggot?" How many white sports stars have said that and been made to apologise in public like this?

I'd genuinely like to know. I'm wary of how black celebrities/public figures are unequally chastised in public for things that white people tend to get away with. The public chastisement of such people takes on a particular racial shade when it involves black men in particular.

And I won't even go into the notion of what counts as a slur, and in what contexts, and whether this is going to stop people using the word in the same way.

And to echo Alex: who the hell is Joe Solmonese to demand an apology and take that call? Does he now speak for all of us?

Oh, right. Thirty million or more in operating costs means a lot to some of us.

Chitown Kev | April 14, 2011 12:11 PM

I have to disagree with you on a portion of this, Yasmin.

1) John Rocker is one of the most famous cases where an athlete had to apologize.

2) Two distinct cases that I remember in the past year and a half or so are Jason Akermanis in Australia (he said that he didn't think that closeted "footy" players should come out...the gay blogs went on a tear about it and Akermanis' home was egged.

There was also the case of former Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh who denied that he said something similar (and from the lloks of the tape, it is less clear what Harbaugh actually said than in the Bryant case).

3) The sense in which Bryant used the slur is the exact same way that similar slurs have been used since classical antiquity (e.g. Catullus poem #57). It's not exactly about whether the person is or is not a "faggot" but it's invective that has all too easily resorted to simply as a defamatory insult in a wide variety of competitive venues

4) I agree with you about Solmonese. GLAAD should have been the organization to handle that but Solomonese smelled a little bit of fame, I suppose.

Thanks, Chitown - I was genuinely curious because all kinds of red flags go up for me when I hear about a black celebrity/public figure being chastised.

And, yeah, Solmonese. Pfffffft. He's gotta justify that salary somehow.

Yasmin, Chi, do either of you remember how much Universal Press Syndicate fined Ann Coulter when she called John Edwards a f**? ... I must be having a senior moment, because nothing comes to mind.


I'd obliterated that painful incident from my memory. And if I remember correctly, it took him a loooooong while to figure out what the problem was.

A.J - I do remember her using the word, but can't find anything about the fine amount.

I was being sarcastic, and that's my point -- not only was she not fined by the organization she represents, I don't think they reprimanded her at all. Not even a, "That's not nice -- please don't do it again."

:-) [hears swooshing sound as it flies over head]

It wasn't an apology so much as a statement. It's gratifying to see the NBA reacting so swiftly and strongly to this, but it's obvious that Bryant just doesn't get it -- as Sean Chapin pointed out, this has much larger resonance than one person insulting another. Maybe Bryant should spend a little bit of time thinking about what it means to use that word as an insult to begin with.

Rick Sutton | April 14, 2011 12:09 PM

I love basketball. Since I played it in school and watched it for decades. The NBA isn't basketball anymore. It's Hollywood mixed witih MTV meets money. About Kobe's latest (NOT first) misbehavior, I'm so desparately f***ing angry I could spit nails. (With apologies to Derrick and Romaine)

Two years ago, in the playoffs, that dull tool Kevin Garnett, after being dissed by Miami fans, turned to them and uttered the same disgusting words. Three times. TNT caught it full-on, and re-ran it multiple times.

I called the NBA, the Boston Celtics, TNT, and GLAAD. Not a damned soul would listen. GLAAD wouldn't return phone calls or emails. I don't give a flying f*** who's the King of Gays--good God, we spend too much time worrying about which GLBT organization gets "credit" for this or that effort. Enough already.

Kobe reached out to HRC because his agent or PR person was media-trained to reach out to the most-visible GLBT organization. So be it. To whom Kobe apologized, is immaterial. Focus on the words, folks. Not the apologee.

What he said, and his disgusting behavior for years, are what's important.

Criminal sexual assault charges against him were dismissed in Colorado after a female "witness" got "convenient memory." I read the arresting affadavit on-line before it was jerked. Kobe is a pig. A civil settlement "allegedly" later followed, as did his wife's alleged diamond makeup jewelry.

The network which aired this disgusting comment should've apologized to viewers. The NBA did more than they've ever done in similar situations, yet, pardon the pun, it's limp.

This word is tossed about by overpaid athletes because they can. And they rarely get nailed for it. Kids mimmick the NBA because it's popular--a $20 billion annual enterprise fueled by ESPN highlight reels, zero officiated street-ball, and video games that look almost real.

A million-dollar fine wouldn't hurt Kobe. He made $4 mil last year off video game endorsements alone. Suspend his sorry ass for five playoff games. That would hit him where it counts. And tell NBA players to zip their foul f***king mouths.


And thanks for F***king nothing GLAAD. I thought that "D" stood for "Against Defamation." Maybe it just means "Asshats Dominate."

GLAAD put out a request for an apology, statements, etc. Kobe called Joe. Not much they can do about who the guy decides to call to offer up his faux apology...

Chitown Kev | April 14, 2011 12:32 PM

One correction to note

This occured during the regular season and not a playoff game.

Granted a Laker-Spurs is going to have a playoff atmosphere but the NBA playoffs begin Saturday.

1) He's appealing the fine. So much for taking responsibility (he calls the appeal "protocol").

2)100,000 is a slap on the wrist. He's worth around 50 million. Like Outsport comments, giving him a few games suspension would've had far more impact.

3) Way to derail the issue, Yasmin. There's always some "curiosity" when you wish to grab a chance to give a speech on some of your preferred (and more important!) topics.

Even if it were the case that black offenders were called out more frequently due to bias (which has been proven false by Kev, and further records can be checked at Outsport to see the plethora of white athletes condemned for homophobia), that makes little difference to the concept that Kobe should be held accountable.

Condemning minorities for homophobia shouldn't be subject to some ulterior motive/undercurrent check. The homophobia itself is enough to warrant rebuke, even if the rebuke is more readily heaped as a result of bias.

I would call this a tempest in a teapot -- except for one aspect: As a sports star, someone such as Kobe Bryant is a role model for millions of youngsters, not only in US but throughout the world. When Kobe mutters the f-word, he's teaching those millions of youngsters that it's OK for them to use it, too.

So, yes, it is true that different types of celebrities must be held up to different standards.

dharmapupil | April 15, 2011 4:35 AM

Let me get this right:
Kobe Bryant issues a public statement of non-apology (Not his fault, it was a heated moment), then holds a private phone conversation with some Professional Gay who then goes to TMZ to "report" or Bryant's "sincere apology"? Is that about right?

That wasn't an apology (either one)!
There has been nothing directed towards the fans who were in the stands or the general public. All there is so far is a secondhand interpretation of what he allegedly said in a private conversation. There has been no public statement from Bryant about how he takes responsibility for his actions or that he would like to make amends to those he insulted. THAT is an apology.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done it. I won't do it again." See, that's how it's done. Simple. Even a multimillionaire superstar athlete can do it.

Rick Sutton | April 15, 2011 1:13 PM

Uh, no he can't. Or won't. On issues of personal conduct, he's a pig. This is not brand-new news.

Oh yeah--he's extremely talented, but he carries the ball and gets the call every time. (sigh) It's not basketball any more. It's a series of ESPN highlight reels, put back-to-back between 40 minutes of beer and car commercials.

I like the idea of apologizing to viewers and fans in the stands who had to endure his nonsense. I actually heard an ESPN radio commentator this morning say, in essence: "the fine is OK, and he shouldn't have been suspended, because the Lakers would've lost the next game, and that would've affected who they played in the playoffs, and that's not fair."

I love it when everyone's priorities line up just so.

I guess Kobe won't mind being called a nigger next time things heat up on the court! Oh gee sorry (I guess). It was just in the heat of the moment.