Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant Fined for Slur, but There's a Bigger Issue Here

NBA Commissioner David Stern did not waste any time in levying a fine against Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant for uttering the slur “f**king fa**ot” to a referee during a Tuesday night contest against the San Antonio Spurs.

Bryant suggested he meant no ill-will towards the referee. He was just frustrated and meant no harm.
“What I said last night should not be taken literally," said Bryant on Wednesday. "My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period.”

Bryant added, "The words expressed do not reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were not meant to offend anyone.”

The Human Rights Campaign begs to differ. They feel Bryant’s poor choice of words creates an atmosphere for bigotry to fester, as does the commissioner.

According to, Stern suggested such derogatory statements have no place in sports or society. “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."

President of the Human Rights Campaign Joe Solmonese concurred with Stern’s swift action: "We applaud Commissioner Stern and the NBA for not only fining Bryant but for recognizing that slurs and derogatory comments have no place on the basketball court or in society at large."

Solmonese continued, "We hope such swift and decisive action will send a strong and universal message that this kind of hateful outburst is simply inexcusable no matter what the context."

Bryant spoke with Solmonese and issued an apology prior to yesterday’s season finale against the Sacramento Kings. Said Solmonese, "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 okay 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."

I agree with anyone who believes derogatory slurs should not be tolerated. On a personal level I’ve experienced some of the worst racial slurs ever hurled at a person. I continue to champion justice whether the insults are leveled directly at me or at others.

The show must go on.

I don’t have a serious issue with the fine levied. It’s not like $100,000 will force him into bankruptcy.
I think there’s a bigger issue many are overlooking: the need for athletes—particularly African American athletes—to speak out against social inequities in American sport and society, whether it directly affects them or not.

Speaking out will ignite both awareness of and dialogue concerning so-called controversial issues, and can ultimately serve as a catalyst for change. Marquee athletes have the ear of the media and the eyes of the public.

Doesn’t it make sense to use one's platform for something other than self-gratification? Most African American athletes keep their mouths shut unless turmoil visits their own doorstep.

Why wasn’t Bryant speaking out during the 2008 Olympic Games in China?

At the time over 500,000 Muslim Africans were being slaughtered by their Christian countrymen in Darfur, Sudan. China was supplying weapons to the Sudanese government, which were used to murder innocent Africans.

Where was the protest by the athletes?

In 2007 LeBron James was asked by a teammate sign a petition against the genocide taking place in Darfur. He refused, suggesting he needed more time to investigate the matter.

A year wasn’t enough?

James, like Bryant, participated in the 2008 Olympic Games and didn’t utter one word about China's involvement with the massacre taking place.

Last summer James held his famous “Decision” for all to see. After he was thoroughly roasted by a segment of the media and fans his mainstream popularity took a hit.

In an interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien last year James was asked if race played a factor in his media portrayal. “I think so, at times,” he said. “There’s always a race factor.”

I totally agree race was a factor, but that’s not the point. James cried race when it directly effected him, yet he's not uttered a word in defense of its other targets.

Where were the African American athletes when Donovan McNabb was subject to racist bashing on ESPN by the conservative Rush Limbaugh in 2004?

Where was Bryant when Don Imus referred to several female basketball players as “nappy headed ho’s" in 2007?

Where was King James in 2008 when Golf Channel announcer Kelly Tilghman suggested players on the PGA Tour should take Tiger Woods and “lynch him in a back alley” to curtail his dominance?

The lack of diversity in the media ensures that the vast majority of information disseminated is manufactured by white males. So long as the media has lily-white vantage points on subject matter such as racism, sexism and gender, inequality will go vastly underreported.

According to The Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sports, 94, 88 and 89 of American sports editors, columnists and reporters respectively are white. Meanwhile, African-Americans account for 1, 6 and 8 respectively in the same positions.

Can anyone say "lack of diversity"?

We could experience a level of coverage that better reflects sports culture if publications, radio and television truly embraced diversity.

Slice the pie any way you like, but if the NBA is 80 percent African American there is a serious problem when just six percent of columnists covering it are African American and 88 percent are white.

Bottom line, we live in a society where many people both in and outside of sports opt for silence when noise is what's needed. Simultaneously, news outlets gloss over their need to diversify and remain vastly white.

What Bryant said was wrong, even though it was in the heat of the moment. But I think it would be great if the likes of Bryant utilized their platforms for more than self-gratification and personal gain.

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