Basketball star Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 by the NBA on Wednesday for an “offensive and inexcusable” homophobia slur at a referee who had just called him for a technical foul. Bryant apologized for the outburst, saying that it was “out of frustration during the game, period.” But David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, had no patience for Bryant’s slur.
“While I’m fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated,” he said. “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.”
Stern received praise from gay-rights activists who had wanted a more complete apology from Bryant. They were dissatisfied with Bryant’s claim that he had not meant to offend anyone, saying that “this kind of hateful outburst is simply inexcusable no matter what the context.”
“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,” said Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “The LA Lakers have a responsibility to educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable.”
It’s certainly heartening to see that the NBA took such swift action against Bryant; as the New York Times points out, “there is a recent history of people in sports using offensive slurs against gays and being punished for it.” The fact that the NBA Commissioner made it clear that this kind of “slip-up” is unacceptable shows that the NBA, as an institution, is willing to stand up to this offensive behavior in their players, and expect them to set a better standard. Let’s hope that fewer professional athletes so blatantly flout this standard in the future.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.