Update 2:50 p.m.: Gay rights advocates decried Bryant's actions in a statement.
"What a disgrace for Kobe Bryant to use such horribly offensive and distasteful language, especially when millions of people are watching," the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay-rights group, said.
Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said in a separate statement that slurs have no place on or off the court. "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," Barrios said. "The LA Lakers have a responsibility to educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable."On Wednesday, Bryant released his own statement, through the Lakers: “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.”
So he used the slur. He just didn't mean it. Notice how there's not an apology there.
We've all sort of gotten a crash course reminder this season that NBA players aren't angel. That they kind of have potty mouths and say bad things. There was the whole Kevin Garnett - Charlie Villanueva thing, for example.
The latest comes from Kobe Bryant who after going to the bench following his 15th technical foul of the season, yelled out what appeared to be an offensive homophobic remark.
As you can see, Bryant yells out "Bennie!" which is directed at official Bennie Adams, and then says "F-word [gay slur]." I'm not a lip reader and I didn't hear it, but I think we can all agree that's what it appears to be. I suppose he could've said, "Philly Phanatic" but I'm thinking he didn't go that direction.
TNT announcer Steve Kerr saw it and immediately knew what was going on, remarking, "He's yelling at Bennie. You might want to take the camera off him for the children watching at home."
TMZ.com obtained a statement made by the Lakers on the matter which said, "The Lakers can not confirm that is what Kobe said or not." The NBA said the incident was "under review." So we'll have to wait and see what that means.
I don't know how to entirely comment on this, other than to say it was a very bad thing for Kobe to yell, even in anger. I'm not entirely comfortable even writing about it because I like basketball and this isn't basketball. It's one of those things that if you step wrong around it, you slip on the banana peel and get yourself in trouble.
But here's the thing: We only know about this because the camera caught him do it. I'm sure this isn't the first time Kobe has said something like this nor do I think he's the ONLY player to have ever said something bad like this. He just had the misfortune of the camera being right on his face when he blurted it out.
We went over this with the Garnett - Villaneuva situation and pretty much all agreed: What's said on the court stays on the court. Problem with that, at least for the players, is that microphones tend to work very well, cameras catch everything and fans sit very near the action. You can't stay innocent for long nowadays.
And I'm not entirely sure it's fair to hold players like Bryant to a higher standard with things like this. Again, it was a horrible thing for him to say. He shouldn't have said it. But we've all said dumb, offensive things. Lucky for most of us, there wasn't a camera pointed in our face when we did it. Then again, we're not Kobe Bryant. It's honestly kind of a weird situation.
Reality is, the culture of professional sports has also been a misogynistic society where things like being gay is seen as a gross, bad thing. The culture just breeds language like that. That's locker room talk and that's a word that's used probably daily in there. Plus, Kobe has never been shy about dropping an f-bomb in interviews. He's always been somewhat crass and controversial. This time, he just sort of took it to a level that actually would offend some people.
I'm sure Kobe doesn't actually hate gay people. I'm sure he doesn't say that word to express hatred of gay people. I'm assuming here -- which I recognize is dangerous -- that Kobe just sort of has that word as part of his language to toss out in situations like this without really thinking about what it means.
I'm sure he'll be asked about it today and he'll either deny saying it or apologize. Maybe this is a lesson learned for all professional athletes that have cameras hovering around them everywhere they go: Watch what you say.