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Kobe Bryant's Slur Symbolizes A Bigger Problem

Ryan Nunez |
April 13, 2011 | 5:46 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Kobe Bryant's aggressive demeanor on the court has gone too far.
Kobe Bryant's aggressive demeanor on the court has gone too far.

Docket# TIVOREPLAY-024

Kobe Bryant is charged with uttering a homophobic obscenity that rhymes with "Mucking Maggot" at referee Benny Adams during Tuesday night’s home win against the San Antonio Spurs. The use of this slur, which was unmistakably caught on tape, is derogatory, offensive and ignorant. There is no legitimate defense for the use of such hurtful terminology.

Fans with a quality entertainment center setup and decent lip-reading skills saw the incident as Kobe sat on the bench, lip-read what he said, TiVo'd it a few times to make it official and then said, "Kobe just called someone a f***ing f***ot. Who’s Benny? Is Benny Udrih on the Spurs? No? Benny must be a ref. Oh, geez."

Verdict: Guilty

Fine: $100,000

Chance of Appeal: 0 percent

An open and shut case, Johnson.

End docket.


The unofficial term for this type of case in the world of celebrity public relations is "apologize, pay and it will all go away." Kobe will certainly apologize and pay in this case, but will it all go away?

We’ve been down this road with our celebrity athletes before. With the advent of Twitter and TMZ, the athlete screwup/apology is almost a daily occurrence. Athletes seem to get the most rope in a situation like this. Fans, a term which is not-so-ironically short for fanatics, are quick to give the benefit of a doubt to the player, often verbalizing some sympathy. After all, the player is on camera every second of every game, admittedly a startling thought for most people.

Every mainstream pundit will gloss over the fact that such language is not only commonplace in the NBA but, arguably, an accepted practice. One need only examine Kobe’s response and the reasoning behind it to really understand why these things do and will continue to happen.

Kobe said, "I obviously meant nothing to that effect" which is, on the surface, actually a reasonable defense. There is little doubt that this statement is true, but it brings up the question: If Kobe is owning his actions and apologizing, why is he also defending his actions?”

Kobe’s underlying message was clear: The word "faggot" is still a commonly accepted slur in his world and the reasoning behind that is, the word is not necessarily used to mean a gay person. Hearing this defense makes everyone cringe, and the irony of that defense coming out of a black man's mouth is lost on absolutely no one.

The dirty, underlying secret in all of this is that we are a nation of name callers. Until that fact is faced head on in a legitimate way, nothing will change.

From the 1800s, when we were classifying union soldiers as Yankees and calling confederate soldiers Rebels, to the disgustingly pandemic use of the n-bomb and the r-bomb in this country today, namecalling is part of Americana and fan apathy. This reality, combined with the cleansing effect of the 24/7 news cycle, will ensure that instances like this will continue to be commonplace.


To reach Ryan Nunez by email, click here.



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