Kudos to Kobe Bryant for sticking up for the LGBT community and attempting to strike down bigotry. It's about dang time he did.
Of course, the irony of Kobe playing the part of "Vocabulary Cop" shouldn't be lost on anyone, and certainly wasn't on the Black Mamba. Bryant acknowledged his past offenses against the LGBT community, telling his Twitter tormentors:
It hasn't even been two years since Bryant touched off a firestorm of controversy when TNT's cameras caught him lobbing verbal grenades at referee Bennie Adams during a game against the San Antonio Spurs in April 2011:
It was just stupid and ignorant. In this situation, seeing how many people were affected, it helps you understand the weight that comes from that word. That's why it's very important for me to communicate how sorry I am to use the word.
That apology didn't keep Kobe from fighting the fine, though.
Shortly thereafter, the Lakers produced a public service announcement promoting tolerance while denouncing divisiveness in all forms. The star? None other than the Mamba himself:
I’m very excited to see Kobe taking an active stand on this. His actions are proof that athletes who use casual homophobia can be educated on this issue. Athletes who are given a chance to learn from their mistakes can become some of the LGBT community’s most valuable supporters.
Kobe's example here is just the sort from which countless athletes at all levels and in all corners of the wide (and often homophobic) world of sports could stand to learn. It's one thing for a high-profile athlete of Bryant's cultural cachet and worldwide fame to denounce bigotry as forced penance in the wake of his transgressions. It's another for said superstar to show, in such a public manner, that he's learned from his mistakes and to encourage others to consider their own thought processes.
Allies like Kobe are crucial to the effort to soften—if not eliminate outright—the stigma against homosexuality in sports. Until the day arrives (and it will) when a prominent and active male athlete comes out of the closet, it's incumbent upon those with and without Bryant's measure of influence to foster an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding in which people of all stripes will feel comfortable working, playing and partaking in all that sports has to offer.