Last night, Kobe Bryant picked up a technical foul during his Lakers’ 102-93 win over the starter-resting Spurs. He wasn’t happy about it, as TV cameras caught (specifically, at the 36-second mark below):
And yes, it does appear that Kobe had some choice words for referee Bennie Adams, including one prominent gay slur. Is this a good thing? Of course not. It would be nice if everyone could treat one another with respect, compete hard but clean, etc., etc.
But it would also be a complete fantasy world. And that’s why, while not condoning it, no one should be surprised at what Kobe said. It reminds us of a discussion on PTI yesterday, in which Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon agreed Charlie Villanueva’s “I will kill that dude” comment on Monday night was really nothing special. In the heat of the moment, comments that would normally be a cause for great concern get uttered all the time.
It also can’t help but remind us of the Villanueva/Kevin Garnett “cancer/cancer patient” flap from earlier this season. If Garnett truly did call Villanueva a cancer patient, of course it was wrong – but it was also in line with psychotically-competitive Garnett we know. Kobe, while not quite as crazed, is a similarly competitive guy, similarly susceptible to the heat of the moment.
So while we shouldn’t just completely brush it off when someone says something like what Kobe appeared to say last night, and we shouldn’t act like it’s a good thing to say things like that, we also can’t be surprised when it happens (and we shouldn’t be surprised we’re exposed to it when we, say, focus the camera on Kobe right after something bad happens). No one reaches Kobe’s level of competitive excellence by being nice – especially not when they feel like they’ve been slighted – and it’s unrealistic to expect that anyone would.
UPDATE 3: Kobe issued a statement on his comments last night. Here’s what we said about it.
UPDATE 2: Here’s a good take on the situation from ESPN’s LZ Granderson (who is gay, for the record). One passage:
[Kobe’s comment was] a little deal that lumps in with all the other little deals we let go unchecked because, well, it’s sports. Like snowflakes gathering near the top of a mountain, each is harmless — until there’s an avalanche. Instead of the TNT announcers suggesting the cameras cut away from Kobe’s tirade, it would have been nice for them to denounce what was being said as unacceptable. It’s a slur, not a figure of speech — end of story.
We can’t disagree there. Original update below.
“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 [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] 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.”
It’ll be interesting to see if Kobe just tries to let this pass, or actually responds.