On Tuesday night, Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant lost his cool and crossed the line. On Wednesday, he paid for it.
During the second half of a game against the San Antonio Spurs, Bryant argued a technical foul call and, in the process, used a gay slur, apparently in reference to NBA official Bennie Adams, that was caught on national television cameras.
In response to Bryant's actions, NBA commissioner David Stern levied a fine of $100,000 on the Lakers guard and took him to task for his use of the slur, which drew immediate criticism from gay rights groups.
“Kobe Bryant’s comment during last night’s game was offensive and inexcusable. While I’m fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated. Accordingly, I have fined Kobe $100,000. 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.”Bryant issued a non-apology apology early Wednesday afternoon, stating: "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."
Later Wednesday, TMZ.com reported that Bryant reached out to the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign to apologize directly. An HRC spokesman told the site, "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.'"
Given the circumstances -- a high-profile superstar, indisputable video evidence, Bryant's confirmation of what he said, the immediate and immense public outcry -- the commissioner really had no choice here. Something had to be done or the NBA would have opened itself up to all sorts of attacks upon its character and integrity. The fact that Bryant avoided a suspension -- given the playoff implications of Wednesday night's game against the Sacramento Kings -- is a silver lining for Lakers fans.
Bryant's 2010-2011 salary is $24.8 million dollars, so a $100,000 fine amounts to roughly one/third of what he makes per game. By the NBA's standards, though, $100,000 represents a fairly significant punishment.
Here's video of the scene that led up to Bryant's slur as well as the slur itself.