NEW YORK, April 14 – The NBA fined Kobe Bryant $100,000 for using an anti-gay slur after he was slapped with a technical foul in the Lakers 102-93 victory over San Antonio on Tuesday.
"Kobe Bryant’s comment during last night’s game was offensive and inexcusable," NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement on Wednesday.
"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."
Television cameras, but not a microphone, captured Bryant’s outburst when he returned to the bench after receiving a technical foul.
The video shows Bryant trying and failing to get referee Bennie Adams’ attention then apparently mouthing (expletive) "faggot".
Taken to task by the Human Rights Campaign, an organization dedicated to civil rights for lesbians and gay men, Bryant issued a statement Wednesday saying he didn’t mean to offend anybody.
"What I said last night should not be taken literally," said Bryant, who also punched his chair and tossed a towel in his frustration with the foul call.
"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," Bryant said.
The Human Rights Campaign, which said Bryant’s "horribly offensive and distasteful" language "perpetuates a culture of discrimination," said the player’s statement wasn’t enough.
HRC President Joe Solmonese blasted Bryant.
"This kind of homophobic outburst has dangerous consequences, even more so when it comes from a celebrity in the national spotlight," Solmonese said.
Bryant called Solmonese Wednesday night prior to the Lakers final regular season game to apologize.
"I applaud Kobe Bryant for his swift apology," Solmonese said following the phone conversation with Bryant.
Bryant elaborated on his statement when speaking on a radio show, saying his comment was "wrong".
"The comment that I made, even though it wasn’t meant in the way it was perceived to be, is nonetheless wrong, so it’s important to own that," Bryant said.
"The concern that I have is for those that 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 is said as a message of hate or a license to degrade or embarrass or tease," he said.
"That’s something I don’t want to see happen. It’s important for me to talk about that issue because it’s OK to be who you are."
The two-time defending champion Lakers, already through to the play-offs, close out their NBA regular season on Wednesday night at Sacramento.