Updated at 11:15 p.m.
According to Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, Kobe Bryant apologized in a phone call to the organization late Wednesday night.
In a statement issued by the organization, Solmonese said:
“I applaud Kobe Bryant for his swift apology. We had a very sincere conversation in which he expressed his heartfelt regret for the hurt that his words caused. He told me that it’s never ok to degrade or tease, and that he understands how his words could unfortunately give the wrong impression that this is appropriate conduct. At the end of a difficult day, I applaud Kobe for coming forward and taking responsibility for his actions.”
Filed at 6:19 p.m.
Fined $100,000 by NBA Commissioner David Stern for a homophobic slur he made to a referee Tuesday night, Kobe Bryant said he was caught up in the emotion of the game.
What on earth did Bryant mean as he lobbed his comment at the ref as he went to the bench after drawing a technical in the Lakers’ victory over the Spurs?
“Obviously, you know, nothing to that effect,” Bryant said in an interview on “The Mason & Ireland Show” on ESPN 701 late this afternoon. “The concern that I have is for those that follow what I say or are inspired by how I play or look to me as a role mode, whatever it is, for them to not take what was said as something — as a message of hate or a license to degrade or embarrass or tease. Because that’s something I don’t want to see happen. It’s important for me to talk about that issue because it’s okay to be who you are.”
Bryant wasn’t complaining about the fine. “You’ve got to own up and just take responsibility for what it is. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s not warranted, this that and the other. It’s a judgment call that they decided to make and I abide by that.”
Bryant said that he was thinking about one thing: the game. “I was thinking about the game. I wasn’t thinking about anything else,” Bryant said, with a laugh. “I was thinking about the game and thinking about, you know, damn, I’m sitting on the bench and this is a big game for us [the Lakers had lost five a row]. We need to win it. ...
“I was in that moment. I was in the moment and the emotions, obviously, of the game. Being wrapped up in the moment and having those outbursts is totally normal and hopefully other players look at what happened with me and what I said and understand that. If you have cameras around the league and there’s a lot of things being said that should not be said so hopefully we all kind of learn from this experience and follow suit.”
Stern dealt switfly with Bryant, with the fine coming down as the Lakers were in Sacramento for the regular-season finale. “Kobe Bryant’s comment during last night’s game was offensive and inexcusable,” Stern said in a statement released by the league. “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.”
Bryant’s comment was condemned earlier in the day by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
“For better or worse, Kobe Bryant has created a teachable moment for the millions of fans – many of them young – who saw that outburst on the floor,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement released by the organization. “And the right thing to do now is to apologize and take responsibility for suggesting that the worst thing you can do to someone is to scream out a gay slur. This kind of homophobic outburst has dangerous consequences, even more so when it comes from a celebrity in the national spotlight.”
GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios said in a statement: “Discriminatory slurs have no place on or off the court. Professional sporrs 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. The L.A. Lakers have a responsibility to educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable.”