The NBA Playoffs begin today. But like many hoops fans, I’m still reeling from the recent regrettable actions of basketball superstar Kobe Bryant.
Earlier this week, during a highly-charged game against the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers icon, 5-time champion and perennial All-Star Kobe Bryant received a technical foul (his fifteenth of the year) from referee Bennie Olsen. Bryant then went to the bench, and proceeded to punch a chair in frustration, before uttering the homophobic slur heard ‘round the sporting world. “Hey Bennie! F____n f____t.”
The league immediately fined Bryant $100,000 for his verbal indiscretion, a move that was applauded by GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). “While I’m fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated,” fashion czar and league commissioner David Stern stated. “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.”
But while Commissioner Stern and the NBA should indeed be applauded for their swift handling of this beyond-unfortunate incident, they should not escape criticisms either.
While the $100,000 fine is one of the largest levied by the league this season, Bryant makes $302,515 per game. He’s hardly in the same economic boat as the majority of Americans who are crying over their tax returns this weekend. Furthermore, the NBA offices, unlike their MLB, NFL and NHL counterparts, are notoriously secretive about the recipients of money donated from the collected fines (which mostly consist of players looking too intense, or coaches commenting, accurately I might add, on how awful the officiating is). The official NBA response to the question of what fines fund is “charity.” But their charitable recipients are often undisclosed.
So, I want to suggest a more specific use of Bryant’s $100,000 “charitable donation” (the payment of which, by the way, he is challenging). It should be donated to gay rights organizations. The unbelievable economic reality is that, for Kobe Bryant (and all top-paid professional athletes), a fine of $100,000 is just a slap on the proverbial wrist. It’s not likely to deter him from using this term in another moment of tense athletic competition. And while suspicion surrounds the lining of the league’s coffers and their support of mysterious charitable outlets, direct financial support to those who work so hard to fight the intolerance that is contained within that derogatory f-word that millions of people saw and heard global athletic idol Kobe Bryant utter on television seems to be a good solution.
Either that, or he could participate in Gay Pride in L.A., as was suggested by OutSports.com co-founder Cyd Zeigler. “Gay Pride parade, West Hollywood, middle of June, Kobe rides a float, and we’re all good.”
Of course, as Zeigler noted, Bryant and the Lakers could be playing in the NBA Finals in mid-June. But there are a handful of teams who will be doing everything in their power to prevent that. And now, after his homophobic comments, many more fans who will be rooting for those challengers to defeat the Purple and Gold, and especially their captain, Kobe Bryant.