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NBA Star Kobe Bryant Allegedly Yells Gay Slur at Ref During Angry Tirade

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"Basketball doesn't build character, it reveals it."

Kobe Bryant is known for his wild, sometimes acrobatic, basketball shots. But now the Los Angeles Lakers star is getting noticed for his supposed wild mouth.

After receiving a technical foul during last night's home game against the San Antonio Spurs, Bryant started throwing a tantrum. He went back to his seat, punched it, and threw a towel down. He then yelled at the referee, appearing to call him a "fu***** fa**ot!"

So far, the Lakers have punted on the issue by telling TMZ that they could not confirm if Bryant did in fact utter the slur. (Can't they ask him?) Either way, the reaction hasn't been good. Human Rights Campaign -- the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group -- released a statement calling on the Lakers and the NBA to address the incident. The LA Times reports:

"What a disgrace for Kobe Bryant to use such horribly offensive and distasteful language, especially when millions of people are watching," the HRC said in a statement. " 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.”

John Krolik over at Probasketballtalk.com offers a thoughtful response to the tirade by focusing on whether context matters when using that term:

The word Kobe used can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Intelligent, funny people like Louis C.K., Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Joe Rogan have all made cases that when they use the word, they’re not saying that they have a problem with homosexuality or homosexual behavior; they just use it to denote behavior they find unacceptable. The problem with that logic is that while we can control what we say, we can’t always control what people hear, and it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to separate our words from our intentions, especially hurtful words.  In my younger years, I had the foolish belief that proper contexts to use that word somehow existed. I no longer hold that belief in any way, shape or form. The fact is that for a lot of people, homosexual behavior and unacceptable behavior are synonymous. Until that changes, I believe that there is no appropriate context for that word.

ESPN's LZ Granderson doesn't believe Bryant is a homophobe, but that doesn't mean what he said was right:

I'm going to assume he didn't say it.

And if he said it, I'm going to assume he's going to issue an apology later.

And if he has, good for him.

And if he said it and doesn't apologize, then I'm going to assume the Lakers or the league will fine him for his transgressions.

But if he did and he doesn't and they don't, I hope the media will take them all to task for the offense.

And if we won't, then I hope some of you will at least remember that in the heat of the moment, with emotions high, Kobe Bryant appears to be referring to his colleague with a homophobic slur on national TV.

How does the quote go: "Basketball doesn't build character, it reveals it"? We already knew what kind of player Kobe was in pressure moments. Now we see a glimpse of the person. Now we see how he really feels about some of the people he works with.

LA Times columnist Hadarii Jones says it's clear what Bryant said, and that as a result he probably faces a hefty fine:

The most likely step will be a huge fine from the NBA, but it's doubtful that Bryant will face a suspension due to the circumstances surrounding the incident.

What Bryant said was clearly visible to anyone who can read lips, but there is always the chance that Bryant could say that his words were misconstrued or that they were not directed toward the official at all.

However, in the court of public opinion, Bryant will probably be obliterated, and he has potentially added an entire group of people to the ranks of those who already despise him.

As of publication time, Bryant has yet to issue an apology.

(H/T: Gawker.tv)

UPDATE:

Bryant apologized Wednesday night and was fined $100,000 by the NBA.

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