As you most likely know by now, Kobe Bryant appeared to utter a gay slur during the Lakers’ win over the Spurs last night. If you haven’t seen, here’s what it looked like.
This caused a bit of a firestorm, and it was only a matter of time before Kobe himself responded to it. Sure enough, he recently released a statement. Here’s what it said:
“What I said last night should not be taken literally. 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.”
This statement, it’s safe to say, will have little effect in stemming the backlash against Kobe’s remarks. The No. 1 reason for this: there’s no apology. Usually, statements of this sort will at least have some perfunctory, “I apologize to anyone I may have offended.” If anything, Kobe’s statement actually faults everyone else, for their interpretation of his comment. (Incidentally, there wasn’t much doubt about what Kobe said, but the fact that he doesn’t deny using a slur removes any lingering uncertainty anyone may have had.)
As far as the comment not “reflect[ing Kobe’s] feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities,” it might well not have. We don’t know Kobe personally, and in a column published earlier today on the controversy, LZ Granderson (who as a gay man himself has a better handle on this issue than we could ever hope to) said Kobe’s “probably not” a homophobe.
However, whether a homophobe or not, Kobe still said what he said. And just because we pointed out that it would be unwise to be shocked that someone could say something like this – when, in reality, this just happened to be an instance that was caught on camera in addition to the many, many that aren’t – certainly doesn’t mean it’s a good thing that remarks like that are made (as we also pointed out).
Bearing that in mind, the best thing for Kobe to do would have been to actually apologize to those he offended (and lose the “should not be taken literally” while he was at it). He didn’t, and therefore will only face more questions about what he said (indeed, it’s already happening).
We said before that a main reason Kobe’s ill-advised comment didn’t surprise us was because you simply don’t possess his kind of competitive drive by being a nice guy. Maybe our lack of surprise, though, just meant we’d become too desensitized to the word he used, and too cynical to think anything could be done about its pervasive use. Perhaps the amount of publicity Kobe’s slur received meant this was a chance to actually look long and hard at words that get bandied about like nothing, even if they do have an effect on people.
Instead, there was…that statement we saw above, which amounted to pretty much nothing. Kobe’s not obligated to apologize, or to fight what the Human Rights Campaign called a “culture of discrimination and hate” in responding to his comments last night. He can say what he wants. But so can we, so we’ll just say it would have been nice to see – not to mention smart for him personally – if he’d done either.