On Tuesday night, Kobe Bryant was caught on camera using an anti-gay epithet to insult a referee. Bennie Adams had just hit the star with a technical foul, when an incensed Bryant stormed to the sidelines and could be seen mouthing the words ""f**king f*ggot" in Adams's direction. After the game, a social-media uproar led Bryant to issue an apology, in which he said, "My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings toward the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone." Nonetheless, the NBA slapped Bryant with a $100,000 fine. Is that too much?
The punishment fits the crime: "It's especially important for superstar athletes to understand that people, and especially impressionable kids, will model their behavior on what they see their idols do and say," says Joe Solomonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign to whom Bryant apologized directly, as quoted by CNN. "We have a responsibility to call that out and say that it’s not an appropriate reaction" — and this fine is a good way to do just that. Still, it's encouraging for an athlete like Kobe to "take ownership for their mistake and say I'm sorry."
"Joe Solomonese: Kobe Bryant's comments were 'a mistake of the mind and not the heart'
No, it goes too far: "While I agree that Bryant's use of the word was unnecessary, offensive and, frankly, stupid," says Sam Westmoreland at Bleacher Report, this fine is still overkill. Bryant was simply "voicing his displeasure with the official's call," and he clearly meant the phrase "as an expletive," not as an affront to gay people. Instead of fining him, the NBA should have forced him to "offer a real apology (the one he gave felt a little fake), then move on with the business of playing basketball."
"Thursday's top sports news"
Athletes like Kobe get off too easy: Bryant's fine is peanuts, says Patrick Goldstein at the Los Angeles Times, considering he makes $300,000 every time he steps on the court. Compare Kobe's case to Isaiah Washington, the Grey's Anatomy actor who in 2007 used the same slur to insult a co-star. Washington apologized, but was fired anyway. Kobe, meanwhile, will be granted a clean slate, particularly if he leads the Lakers to another championship. "Basketball fans will opt for winning over chivalry every time."
"Kobe Bryant's $100,000 fine: Is Hollywood tougher than the NBA about gay bashing?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The U.S. is about to sell weapons to Vietnam. That's bad news for China.
- What the Middle Ages can tell us about the GOP's big charity myth
- Why is the Pentagon stuffing caves in Norway full of tanks?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The one thing the New Atheists get right about religion
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The uncomfortable truth in The Giving Tree
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- Syrian women know how to defeat ISIS
- 5 baffling foreign-language versions of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song
Subscribe to the Week