Kobe Bryant fined more than Joakim Noah for using anti-gay slur
The NBA issued Bulls forward Joakim Noah a $50,000 fine for uttering an anti-gay slur during Chicago's Game 3 loss to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals a little more than a month after issuing a $100,000 fine to Lakers guard Kobe Bryant for the same offense.
There are a few similarities in each episode. The NBA described Noah's outburst as "derogatory and offensive; Commissioner David Stern had called Bryant's slur "offensive and inexcusable." Each player followed with apologies. And each episode raised questions on whether players truly understand that shouting homophobic slurs mean more than just heat-of-the moment outbursts and trash talk.
There apparently was one key difference, however. Bryant shouted at referee Bennie Adams, while Noah shouted his at a fan, with the league acknowledging to various outlets that "Kobe's fine included discipline for verbal abuse of a game official." But that discrepancy only opens up even more concerns beyond the evidence that the NBA's recent public service announcement denouncing the use of anti-gay slurs has fallen on deaf ears.
There's no justification for distinguishing the fines between Noah and Bryant. Issuing a lesser fine to Noah seems to imply that it's not as egregious to direct that slur toward a fan than an official, making it apparent the NBA worries more about its own employees than the paying customer. Distinguishing the severity of fines also sends a message that the slur isn't as offensive in certain circumstances. And any attempt at trying to adjust a fine based on a players' salary misses the whole point. Both Bryant and Noah can easily afford this fine, but traffic tickets aren't weighted for the same reasons this fine shouldn't be weighted. The punishment is supposed to fit for the crime itself being committed. Regardless of any of the league's reasoning, the NBA comes off poorly for trying to distinguish a punishment that's equally offensive regardless of who uttered the slur and to whom.
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Photo: Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant sits on the bench after getting a technical foul during a basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in L.A. April 12, 2011. Credit: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters