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BILL PLASCHKE

Kobe Bryant needs to say more after slur

The fragile legacy of the Lakers All-Star guard takes another hit, but it's something he should fix.

April 13, 2011|Bill Plaschke
  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant looks to pass after drawing Kings defenders to him under the basket in the first half Wednesday night in Sacramento.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant looks to pass after drawing Kings defenders to… (Cary Edmondson / US Presswire )

Not cool, Kobe.

You casually toss around an anti-gay slur as if it were a 19-foot jumper, something you do every day, part of your vocabulary, part of you.

You issue an initial apology with no admission that you were wrong or the word was wrong, an apology that puts the onus on everyone else for taking it wrong.

This isn't flying, Kobe.

 You called someone a "faggot," and you say you didn't mean to offend anyone?  That may work in the insulated sports world, but not in a diverse and tolerant Los Angeles that has mostly supported you for your entire adult life.

You need to fix this, Kobe.

In the last 15 years, I've seen Kobe Bryant grow from a snotty kid to a strong and sensible man, but he is still filled with some sharp edges that make him difficult to embrace, and his city felt one of them Tuesday night at Staples Center when television caught him shouting the anti-gay slur known in the gay community as "the F word."

He had just been given a technical foul. He had just punched a chair. He was screaming at official Bennie Adams. He was Kobe being Kobe.

But then he dropped the F word on Adams, and now we're all wondering, is that also Kobe? The NBA immediately fined him $100,000, but he has appealed it, and is that Kobe?

GLAAD applauds NBA's decision to fine Kobe Bryant $100,000 for anti-gay slur

Entering the final two months of a journey that could bring him a sixth NBA title — one more than Magic Johnson — Bryant is putting the final touches on the legacy of a champion. But because it has been filled with so many bumps and bruises, that legacy remains as fragile as his knees.

Any perception that he is homophobic, especially in Los Angeles, would chip away at his newly strengthened cornerstone while adding to the smoldering wreckage of the days when he was scorned for his recklessness off the court and his selfishness on it.

Bryant's taut personality will never allow him to spend his post-basketball career like the charismatic and influential Magic. But if he wants to maintain his own brand of magic, he needs to show folks that the screaming fool on Tuesday night was indeed not him.

"Gay Pride parade, West Hollywood, middle of June, Kobe rides a float, and we're all good," said Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports.com, the locally based gay sports website. "And if he's playing in the NBA Finals then, we can find something else."

Zeigler, whose site has become a national touchstone for the gay sports community, was serious. He said he's heard from many folks Wednesday who were outraged by the Bryant remark and apparent lack of remorse.

"Los Angeles is one of the gayest cities in America, and the message I'm getting from many is that they are no longer Kobe Bryant fans," Zeigler said. "You can't use that word and get away with it anymore, because the gay community is just tired of hearing it."

While Bryant eventually said many things to many different outlets and organizations Wednesday, the main focus was on his initial statement issued by the Lakers in which he said, "My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period.  The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings toward the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone."

Although Bryant obviously found the caps key, did he find real regret? Zeigler said that he could not find an apology in there, nor a real reason why Bryant was using that word.

"When I am in the heat of battle, and I get upset, that word has never come out of my mouth," Zeigler said. "It came out of Kobe's mouth for a reason. Clearly, he thinks using that word is demeaning. It's the worst thing you can be called in the sports world, because many people there think being gay is the worst thing in the world you can be."

There has been no indication that Bryant is one of those people, and even Zeigler said, "I would never call him a raging homophobic; I don't know what's in his heart."

In fact, shortly before Wednesday's overtime victory against the host Sacramento Kings, Bryant apparently called Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization working for equality for all sexualities, and apologized more pointedly.

"At the end of a difficult day, I applaud Kobe for coming forward and taking responsibility for his actions," Solmonese said in a statement.

Whatever words followed that initial statement, Bryant now needs to support them with action, and riding that float sounds like a great idea.

If Bryant thinks that is not really an NBA thing, was he not watching in February when the Clippers hosted an Equality Night for Equality California, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights group?

Said Zeigler: "Kobe is an adult, he's a role model, he knows better."

We can only hope.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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