The NBA has fined Kobe Bryant $100k for calling referee Bennie Adams a "fucking faggot" during their game last night. NBA commissioner David Stern released this statement:
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.
The statement is very strong, but the fine is a meaningless slap on the wrist. Last year Bryant made $33 million. I've seen his net worth valued in the $150 million range. That fine is the equivalent to a $120 parking ticket to the average American. The only way to get the attention of multi-million-dollar athletes is to keep them from playing. The NBA had the opportunity to send a strong message not just with their words but with their actions. They did not.
In an interview with Mason & Ireland on ESPN Radio Wednesday afternoon, Bryant said he will appeal the NBA's decision. You can listen to that interview here.
He went on in the interview to talk about how people shouldn't tease people and that he didn't intend the slur the way it was taken. And he says he takes responsibility for his own actions. But he has still not apologized to anyone for his offensive comment, and his appeal of the fine certainly sends the message that he truly isn't sorry and is instead blaming everyone else for being so damn sensitive and not understanding how hard it is to be a multi-millionaire playing professional basketball.
In the coming days and months I'll be watching how the Lakers and Bryant himself handle the issue. Will the Lakers issue a real punishment? Will Bryant truly work to undermine homophobia in our sports culture? We'll see.