Kobe Bryant, one of America’s top basketball stars, has been fined $100,000 for using a gay slur against a referee on Tuesday night.
The Los Angeles Lakers player shouted “fucking faggott” at the referee after being called out for a technical foul in a televised game against the San Antonio Spurs.
Bryant was slammed by LGBT groups across the US, with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) saying that it was “a disgrace for Kobe Bryant to use such horribly offensive and distasteful language, especially when millions of people are watching”.
The athlete later tried to explain in a statement: “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,” he said.
Speaking on ESPN, Bryant admitted that the slur was a mistake. “The concern that I have is that those who follow what I say and are inspired by how I play or look to me as a role model or whatever it is, for them not to take what was said as a message of hate or a license to degrade or embarrass or tease, because that’s something I don’t want to see have happen.
“It’s important for me to talk about that issue, because it’s okay to be who you are. I don’t want this issue to be a part of something or to magnify something that shouldn’t be.”
Despite his contrition, Bryant was fined by the National Basketball Association (NBA) over the incident.
“Kobe Bryant’s comment during last night’s game was offensive and inexcusable,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said. “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 NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society.”
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) welcomed the fine. “The NBA has sent a clear message to sports fans everywhere that anti-gay slurs have no place in the game,” said its president Jarrett Barrios.
According to reports, Bryant plans to appeal the NBA fine.