Last week, Kobe Bryant was caught on camera directing a gay slur at a referee who had tee’d him up. After issuing an underwhelming apology, Bryant was fined $100,000 by David Stern for using the word (which starts with an F, and is the worst thing you can call a gay person).
In an eloquent New York Times response to Bryant’s slur, gay former NBA player John Amaechi discussed the damage done. The most poignant part of the piece was when Amaechi talked about an email he got from a gay high school basketball player.
He watched every game you played this season on television, but this week he feels less safe and less positive about himself because he stared adoringly into your face as you said the word that haunts him in school every single day.
The ramifications of the incident are still being felt. Case in point: during Game 1 of today’s Lakers/Hornets game, ESPN’s Lisa Salters reported on a conversation she had with Bryant before tipoff.
“I used to beat up a lot of kids even in high school who used to tease my friends,” Bryant told her. “Because they were gay, or because they were black, or because they were Jewish, or because they were yellow, or because they were whatever.”
Sorry Kobe, but this is tough to see. Although his multicultural upbringing is well documented, Kobe sounds like he’s stretching it a bit when he insists that he was some sort of high school protector of the ostracized.
I mean, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he did beat up a few kids in high school who teased his friends. And picturing Kobe sitting in front of a computer, doing his own research on bullied gay teens, is kind of a touching mental image. But that’s easier to picture than Kobe Bryant, schoolyard avenger. We get it, you have gay friends. But let’s leave it at that.