Bryant has been making headlines after a recent on-court blowup at a referee left many fans stunned and many LGBT-rights groups extremely offended. Even though the Lakers' star has publicly apologized, mixed emotions still exist throughout the sports world regarding Bryant's intentions.
But Howard had a very strong opinion on the matter. At BlackBerry's launch party for the new PlayBook tablet, I asked him if Bryant deserved the fine:
"He was playing basketball. He was upset about a call. Sometimes when you're upset, you say things...not to cause any harm to anybody watching. You're just upset. So whatever he said was a reaction. Pretty sure he didn't mean anything bad by what he said."
And he has a point. Basketball (and any other sport for that matter), is an emotional game. When a player finds himself in such a high-energy, high-intensity environment, controlling his every action proves to be difficult...if not impossible.
Members of the media (myself included) make a living reporting this kind of story, but in the mind of an NBA superstar, his main concern is his fans. Howard explains Bryant's mindset:
"[Bryant] has millions of fans around the world, and I'm pretty sure he didn't want his fans to feel like this is how he felt about this certain group of people."
Now, I can't speak for everyone, but as an NBA fan, I was shocked to learn Bryant would use such offensive language...But I don't think Kobe Bryant is a homophobe. And I highly doubt this "scandal" will forever brand him as such.
Did he use an ugly word? Yes.
Did he mean to attack an entire group of people? Absolutely not.
He got caught up in the moment, and he made a mistake.
So what about this fine? $100,000 seems like a pretty substantial penalty for a single slip-up. Did Bryant deserve this kind of punishment?
"When you do something that's not right, you have to get fined for it, so I understand that, but I really don't think he meant it in a bad way."
Howard's response may seem diplomatic, but think about it for a second. Even though we hold these athletes up as superstars, the NBA is just like any other business. And just like in any other business, there will be rules, protocol, etc. with which employees may not agree, but they must follow them nonetheless.
And if a player breaks a rule, or an employee doesn't fall in line with a certain procedure, he must live with the consequences.