Joakim Noah was fined $50,000 by the NBA for an antigay slur he hurled at a fan during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday night.
“The fan said something that was disrespectful towards me,” Noah said a few hours before the fine was announced. “And I went back at him. Got it on camera. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m not like that. I’m an open-minded guy. I said the wrong thing and I’m going to pay the consequences — deal with the consequences — like a man. I don’t want to be a distraction to the team right now.”
The slur by the Chicago Bulls’ center during Game 3 of the NBA playoff game against the Miami Heat was caught by television cameras and was the league’s second incident involving the same slur and a star player. In April, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers was fined $100,000 for the same words.
Why the difference in fines, particularly for a second incident at a time when the league is broadcasting an awareness-raising ad about the power of words?
“Kobe’s fine included discipline for verbal abuse of a game official,” NBA spokesman Mark Broussard said.
Noah also earns less than Bryant; the fine, according to ESPN, is 1.6 percent of Noah’s $3.1 million annual salary.
“We need to get to a point where you don’t use an antigay slur to respond to events,” Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “It’s just plain unacceptable. At a time when the N.B.A. and a growing number of pro athletes are publicly standing up for equality, it’s too bad Mr. Noah worked against their efforts last night. That said, we’re pleased he quickly realized the error of his ways and apologized.”
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said it had contacted the NBA and the Bulls “to discuss next steps,” according to ESPN.
“Last month the NBA sent an important message about how such slurs fuel a climate of intolerance and are unacceptable,” GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios said in a statement. “These anti-gay remarks, coming so soon after, demonstrate how much needs to be done.”
Said LeBron James of the Heat: “We know what business we are in. Emotions get played. ... I don’t think it was right what he said. But emotions do get said over the course of the game. We know there’s going to be microphones. We know there’s going to be cameras around. You just have to be cautious about what you say and just try to control your emotions as much as possible.”