UPDATE: Kobe Bryant has been fined $100,000 by the NBA for calling a referee an antigay slur during last night's Lakers game against the Spurs.
"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. 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."
About an hour later, Bryant said he was hoping to meet with gay groups. "It's our responsibility to turn it into a positive and raise as much awareness as we can to say that it is not okay to...insult and disrespect," he said in an interview with ESPN radio. While he said he was taking responsibility for his actions, he would appeal the fine as a matter of protocol.
Read on for the complete story...
Just because Kobe Bryant insults someone with a homophobic slur doesn't mean he has any sort of beef with gay people.
At least that's what the NBA star's saying today after being criticized this morning by a gay rights group for using an antigay word to cuss out a referee during last night's Lakers game against the San Antonio Spurs.
Here's the deal on the hoops star's bigoted behavior...
First, a summary for you. After a referee penalized him for a technical foul, Bryant was caught on camera—and live television—referring to him as a "f--king f----t."
"Discriminatory slurs have no place on or off the court," Jarrett Barrios, president of gay media watchdog group GLAAD, said in a statement. "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 also said the Lakers should "educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable."
Bryant insists he meant no harm. "What I said last night should not be taken literally," he said in s 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."
Bryant didn't exactly win over GLAAD.
"This statement is a start, but the NBA must now take action," Barrios said. "No matter the intent, slurs like this fuel intolerance. The NBA has a chance to show leadership by taking disciplinary measures and sending a message that words like this have no place in sports. All sports leagues have a responsibility to create a safe environment for fans, employees and players."
Jim Buzinski, cofounder of gay sports website OutSports, dismissed Bryant's explanation as a "non-apology apology."
"It's still disturbing that this is the epithet of choice in the sports world," he said. "It's still considered the worst thing you can use to demean and insult someone. You could have called the guy a 'jerk' and slew of other words, but when he uses the f-word, it's truly disturbing."
Buzinski agrees with GLAAD that the Lakers need to use this as a stepping-off point to educate. "I think this could be chance for Kobe to do something positive," he said. "Maybe he should speak before young kids and say, 'It's wrong to say it. I shouldn't have said it, and you shouldn't say it either.'"
(Originally published April 13, 2011, at 2:43 p.m. PT)