LOS ANGELES -- L.A. Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant today is acting like he is on "Dancing With The Stars" as he tries to two-step past a homophobic slur that has gotten him into hot water with the LGBT community.
During the third quarter of the Lakers game against the San Antonio Spurs, Kobe got a technical foul and was clearly upset with the NBA refs.
Bryant shouted at referee Bennie Adams, appearing to call him a "F*cking f*ggot."
The Lakers said they can't confirm what was said, but it looks obvious. A TV announcer even said, "You might wanna take the cameras off of him."
Gay-rights groups immediately slammed Bryant.
The Human Rights Campaign condemned the slur:
“What a disgrace for Kobe Bryant to use such horribly offensive and distasteful language, especially when millions of people are watching. Hopefully Mr. Bryant will recognize that as a person with such fame and influence, the use of such language not only offends millions of LGBT people around the world, but also perpetuates a culture of discrimination and hate that all of us, most notably Mr. Bryant, should be working to eradicate. Bryant and the Lakers have a responsibility to speak up on this issue immediately. America is watching.”
And GLAAD issued this comment:
“Discriminatory slurs have no place on or off the court,” GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios said. “Professional sports 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 LA Lakers have a responsibility to educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable.”
GLAAD contacted the Lakers, and the tap dancing began.
Today, Bryant issued this statement:
“What I said last night should not be taken literally," Bryant said. "My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.”
Bryant's slur didn't sit well with the NBA, which is reviewing the incident.
Rugby superstar Ben Cohen, a straight ally who is fighting homophobia in sport, expressed his disappointment in Bryant's slur.
“It is disappointing to see this," Cohen said. "As a professional athlete and rugby World Cup champion, I understand the heat and passion of competition at the highest levels. But we must all remember that strong bodies must be balanced with strong characters, and work toward that end. Our positions as role models demand it.”
HRC said Bryant's lame statement was enough and called on the Lakers organization to weigh in on the slur, given both the prominence of Bryant and the influence he wields on and off the court.
“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. “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.”
Recently, GLAAD has worked with sports groups including the New York Yankees, the World Wrestling Federation (WWE) and the Hershey Bears to address issues of homophobia in sports. The Hershey Bears, top minor league affiliate of the Washington Capitals, told GLAAD this week the team would be taking steps to put a stop to anti-gay taunts from fans.