Skip to content

Kobe fined $100K for “distasteful term” used toward referee

Apr 13, 2011, 6:16 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant reacts during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in Los Angeles Reuters

Kobe Bryant’s emotional use of a derogatory slang term toward gays aimed at a referee Tuesday night — caught and shown to a national television audience — has led to a hefty fine from David Stern and the league office.

“Kobe Bryant’s comment during last night’s game was offensive and inexcusable,” Stern said in a released statement. “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.”

Stern is right; there is no place for it. It doesn’t matter if it is a word commonly thrown around on many NBA courts and in junior high football locker rooms too, that does not make it right. To say it is a societal problem is both correct and does not absolve any one person.

Stern, of course, also has a league image issue to maintain. You can be sure that also was part of the reasoning for the large fine.

The incident happened in the second half, when Kobe picked up a technical foul for clapping his hands demonstratively after not getting a foul call he thought he had earned (it was one of the “respect the game” technical that have been called inconsistently all season for showing up referees). Kobe stormed to the bench afterwards, punched his chair and threw a towel.

Then — with the camera still on him closely — called referee Bennie Adams a derogatory name for homosexuals.

That incident caused an almost instant backlash and debate on twitter among NBA fans and carried on into today. Our own John Krolik wrote a thoughtful piece on the matter today.

Kobe himself issued this statement through the team:

“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.”

Kobe called and spoke with an apologized to the heads of some gay and lesbian advocacy organizations. Phil Jackson sounded like a guy who just wanted to move on to the playoffs.

“It’s unfortunate he got caught saying something like that. It came in the heat of the game. He made his apology, and we move forward,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said before his team faced the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.

  1. purdueman - Apr 14, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    Just wait until it comes out down the road that one of Kobe’s teammates was the one who complained to Stern because he’s a flamer, thinks Kobe has a nice package and was really hurt by Kobe’s slandering!

    • cleareye1 - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:51 PM

      Childish comment.

      • purdueman - Apr 14, 2011 at 1:12 PM

        Not childish; sarcastic.

        I’ve read several times that the percentage of gay men in professional athletics is estimated to be between 10-15%. NBA teams have to carry 13 players and can carry as many as 15; 10% of that number means that statistically speaking the odds are in favor of at least one current member of any NBA team (including the Lakers), having at least one gay player.

        Even the possibility, let alone the probability, of Kobe having a gay teammate makes his slur just that more damaging. That’s my point.

    • cleareye1 - Apr 14, 2011 at 8:19 PM

      So you’ve “read it several times?” Try reading something reliable. The gay population is about 10% or less, in the NBA it is most likely much less if a gay was to skate undetected. But so what? If Rose or James were to come out would their teammates want them gone?

  2. gboneisthename - Apr 14, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    “What’s wrong with using that word?” – Mark Knopfler & Axl Rose

  3. 1historian - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    A few years ago I was involved in helping raise signatures to repeal the same-sex marriage bill the legislature had passed. For this unspeakable crime I, along with others, was called gay basher, homophobe, religious fanatic, liar, hater, and bigot. I totally understand that the people who called me these names were then and remain today my moralsuperiorsandthatIshouldbeprofoundlygratefulthatIampermittedto BREATHE the same air they breathe and all that, but why is it that when I or someone else use the word ‘faggot’ they all have (at the very least) a cow?

    I don’t get it.

    ‘HJurtful’ – is that a

    • cleareye1 - Apr 14, 2011 at 1:00 PM

      Have you ever become familiar with the concept of the truth? All of the terms you say were used against you and your activities are essentially accurate. Kobe’s use of the term faggot was meant to be an unsubstantiated insult. Unfortunately, Kobe is not as smart as Magic or Kareem and apparently has no interest in becoming smarter. If he did he would man up and apologize for using a stupid grammar school term.
      Plus, any adult humans should be able to partner for legal and emotional protection. There is no room for unjustified favoritism.

      • sirgikal - Apr 14, 2011 at 6:36 PM

        Let me get this straight. It’s okay to call someone a derogatory name as long as it’s the truth or accurate? It’s okay to use hate speech when referring to someone protesting gay marriage by calling them a Redneck Jesus-fanatic hate-mongeror, but it’s wrong for Kobe to call the ref a faggot because he isn’t gay??? What if the referee happened to be gay? Would it have been more “appropriate” then because it was accurate?

      • purdueman - Apr 14, 2011 at 6:54 PM

        sirgil, I didn’t watch the game in HD or 3D HD, but wasn’t the ref that Kobe was cursing at who had just tee’d him up wearing pink high heeled Nikes and a trendy lace too-too around his waist?

    • silverguardian - Apr 14, 2011 at 4:39 PM

      My opinion is that I expect professional athletes to understand the concept of sportsmanship. At Kobe’s age, he should not be throwing temper tantrums over having been caught making a foul, and he obviously is never going to learn it during his career. It’s bad enough watching him constantly throw out shocked looks when he’s given a foul. That just keeps showing his childishness. But to get a deserved technical, walk off and throw and kick things like a two year old, and then to actually call someone a childish name … where do you draw the line? Everyone else is expected to behave themselves on the court. But Kobe should be above all that?

      If he had simply said the EFF word, it would have been seen as being just Kobe adding to the list of tantrums he always throws. But when he directs ANY deprecating term at an official, it is poor sportsmanship and he should either be fined, or removed from the court for a game.

      I really like Charles Barkley, but his spitting on someone got him suspended and fined. I was disgusted with him and felt it was entirely fair. It was deprecating (all the more so because it missed and hit a child, but if it had hit the target, it still was proper for him to be suspended and fined).

      I simply can NOT comprehend in what way this is different. Directing a nasty word at someone is just as obscene, and I don’t care whether it has to do with gay rights or not. If he had called him an effer, he still should have been fined. Be mad. Be upset. Whine and throw things. But at the point that you direct your rage toward others, whether with flying fists, flying spitballs or filthy innuendoes, you have crossed the line of sportsmanship by a long shot. It’s time Kobe comprehends that right or wrong, he is a role model. He wanted that. He still does, obviously, because you can’t watch a game in which Kobe hasn’t berated his teammates for not handing HIM the ball.

      When Kobe got into trouble in Colorado, and then apologized, I thought it was sincere. I thought he comprehended that he had not bothered to hear what this girl was trying to tell him. I had hope for him. But he continues to act as if he is above any rules of etiquette or sportsmanship. He deserved the fine. I’d have been happier if he had accepted responsibility rather than issuing excuses. If he’d said, “I threw a tantrum and then I said something totally unacceptable and I’ve shamed my fans and myself. I’m sorry, and I intend to try to accept this as a lesson I needed,” it would have been far better.

  4. 1historian - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    WIMPY word or what?

  5. 1historian - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    I yield to no man in despising the Lakers, but there is such a thing as free speech, and I do wish that Kobe had said something like ‘get over it!’ instead of wimping out like he did. Now you know that the suits and skirts at the playoff games will have a subject to run into the damn ground, which is just another reason for me not to watch the playoffs, and they used to be really entertaining.

    • silverguardian - Apr 14, 2011 at 6:44 PM

      I just really am sure that there is no such thing as freedom of speech in the format you are using it. Freedom of speech does not give people the right to say anything they want under all circumstances. It gives people the right to complain about their government without being afraid of repercussion.

      I can’t recall a single line in our Constitution that states that an individual has a right to say anything he wants, anywhere he wants to. He may be “allowed” to speak, but there is nothing that forces us to have to let him say inappropriate things in our living rooms. I expect that if I’m on a children’s channel, I will hear no cursing and see no ads for either horror films or films with adult content. When I am watching a sport, I expect to not have my grandchildren subjected to hearing their heroes call each other names. And it isn’t the word being used that most bothers me. It is that it gives children the notion that they can be as vile as they want to, and no one has the right to correct them. It takes away from THEM the knowledge that being respectful is in fact a desirable thing, if they think that someone like Kobe can say vile things and get a pass on it.

      Honestly, I can’t think of a single reason to pat Kobe on the back for this, and it sounds to me like there is a whole lot of undeserved “poor baby” being sent his way.

  6. jcrileyesq - Apr 14, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    does anyone notice that when a labor disputes is forthcoming the nba and nfl league offices start with some shady fines

  7. jenna9542 - Apr 14, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    I am sick of gays acting like everyone owes them an apology, get over yourself, you are not fighting for civil rights either, as the blacks were, don’t even compare yourself to them. No one owes you anything, we can say what we want to, you all sure do!

    • silverguardian - Apr 14, 2011 at 4:48 PM

      It’s my opinion that apologies were owed to anyone watching, jenna. Not being gay doesn’t mean that I wasn’t offended. Kobe was out of line and regardless of what name he called the ref, he should have been fined. Good sportsmanship requires it. Charles Barkley once was suspended and given a $10,000 fine for spitting at someone. I don’t see name-calling as any less deprecating. Kobe needs to grow up.

      I just wish that instead of excuses … oh gee, I didn’t mean anything by that … he’d admitted to having let his temper rule him, and offered to try to get a handle on it. There is not another player in the NBA that wouldn’t have been suspended for the throwing and kicking and name calling. Kobe needs to get his childishness under control. I deplore the idea of giving a pass on attitudes like this … what, only because he’s Kobe? I like the boy. But dang it, I do not want to watch him lead the NBA into being filled with churlishness. He’s a role model, not only to people watching, but to his team mates.

  8. rapmusicmademedoit - Apr 14, 2011 at 6:56 PM

    Get over it, he didn’t kill anyone, time to concentrate on more important stuff, like the playoffs.

    • purdueman - Apr 14, 2011 at 7:24 PM

      It’s too bad that Kobe didn’t drop his little slur bomb in Philly, because I could just hear the taunting crowd … 19,000 all in unison chanting just that one offensive word over and over and over again each and every time he handled the ball from that point on in the game (F*H-GOT! F*H-GOT, F*H-GOT!!!). In fact, that would have been so priceless it would have become another Master Card moment!!!

      • cleareye1 - Apr 14, 2011 at 8:07 PM

        Your description is not a credit to Philly or to yourself.

  9. king3319 - Apr 15, 2011 at 4:11 AM

    Cleareye1…it’s more than obvious you’ve never competed in anything other than your little computer games,never fealt the rush of adrenaline and the frustration on a field or court of competition. If you had than you’d know that things ate said that are not meant in a litteral sense. But then again keep sittin in front of your computer in that nice safe bubble spitting comments on things you couldn’t possibly comprehend because you live in that perfect little world where everybody is happy go lucky with with each other!!! Get real man things are said in the heat of competition!!! Keep sittin on the side lines passing judgement while everyone enjoys the adrenaline of goin head to head with real life people and not some avatar!!!

  10. Ryan Karhut - Apr 15, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    I don’t understand how Kobe gets away with not appologizing to the referee for this. I hope this guy refs Kobe in the playoffs and makes some ‘questionable’ calls against him.

    • purdueman - Apr 15, 2011 at 3:14 PM

      An apology that’s merely done for publicity isn’t an apology and I’m sure that the ref involved knows that. You don’t use slurs though unless they are part of your regular vocabulary, even in the heat of the moment.

      When Robbie Alomar spit on the ump, it was months later that the stories started to filter out about the trysts Robbie had with younger club house boys, but it was common knowledge among the umpires and teams that played the Jays frequently at the now Rogers Center. The ump used the same slur on Robbie, which provoked his reaction.

      Just sayin’ that the ref’s silence thusfar on this incident may turn out to be the same thing (i.e., that he’s gay), and he doesn’t want that to become common knowledge or public fodder. I know if I were the referee, I would have been incensed and sure wouldn’t be keeping quite about it, that’s for darned sure!

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. E. Bledsoe (2809)
  2. R. Rondo (2595)
  3. K. Bryant (2193)
  4. L. James (2118)
  5. N. Young (1789)
  1. R. Allen (1779)
  2. D. Rose (1695)
  3. J. Hickson (1652)
  4. B. Jennings (1603)
  5. R. Rubio (1546)