Kobe’s Anti-Gay Tirade

The Laker's harsh words come at a price, says the NBA

Courtesy of the NBA

Kobe Bryant is a darling of the NBA. Talented (he’s scored the second highest number of points in a game in NBA history), famous (he’s endorsed everything from Coke to McDonald’s to Nintendo) and very rich (he’s one of the highest paid players in the NBA, making almost $25 million each season), Bryant is a legend.

But growing up in Lower Merion, the basketball hero – now a player for the Los Angeles Lakers – is also no stranger to scandal. There was that pesky sexual assault allegation in 2003 that was eventually settled out of court. And now the Philly native is again making headlines – and for all the wrong reasons.

The latest controversy has to do with a tirade he spewed toward a referee during a game on Tuesday night. Bryant was caught yelling at the referee and punching a chair on the sidelines after a call. Initially, several news outlets suspected that Bryant had yelled an anti-gay slur at the ref – but no confirmation was immediately available.

After closer examination, however, it was determined that Bryant was caught on camera – and audio – yelling, “F—ing F—ot.”

Late yesterday, it was announced that the NBA would be fining the all-star $100,000 for using the slur. Bryant, meanwhile, is filing an appeal.

NBA Commissioner David Stern called the b-baller’s actions “offensive and inexcusable” in a press statement, saying, “While I’m fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated.”

He went on to say that Bryant and other players know that comments such as these are not tolerated – “and have no place in our game or society.”

Bryant responded yesterday with his own 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 Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) also sent a statement to the press and to the L.A. Lakers about the incident. “Discriminatory slurs have no place on or off the court,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “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 has recently worked with several professional teams – including the New York Yankees, the World Wrestling Federation and Pennsylvania’s own Hershey Bears – to address homophobia among athletes and fans. The Bears – a minor league affiliate of the Washington Capitals that’s based just 90 miles from Philly – said it would put a stop to anti-gay taunts from its fans during games.

As for Bryant, number 24 may have scored 27 points on Tuesday night, helping to win the game against the San Antonio Spurs, but what he lost was a bout with common decency.