Kobe Bryant: Singled out by David Stern and the NBA

Brad VippermanCorrespondent IApril 16, 2011

David Stern giving Kobe Bryant something he actually deserved.
David Stern giving Kobe Bryant something he actually deserved.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

I’ve been borderline livid for the last few days.  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this passionate about a professional sports fine or suspension.  The fact that Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 by the NBA because a TNT camera caught him visually, not audibly, insult a referee by using a commonly said gay slur is ludicrous.  I’m going to spell it out for emphasis…ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS!

The reason I’m upset isn’t that I think Kobe should be allowed to say anything on an NBA sideline.  I’m upset because I have heard, not just lip-read, dozens of obscenities exclaimed throughout this season of NBA basketball and can’t remember a single other fine for such an offense.

For instance, in the Clippers-Grizzlies regular season finale, Clippers forward Craig Smith was ejected after picking up two straight technical fouls.  The camera was focused on him as he was storming off the court and you could read not one, but two F-Bombs leave his lips.  Pretty sure he wasn’t fined a dime.

Why?  Because he’s Craig Smith and nobody cares.

Other things I’ve heard said this season on TV have been the N-word, GD-it, MF, SOB along with hundreds of the aforementioned F-word.  You can only bleep out so much on live television.

My second beef with this fine is the fact that you couldn’t HEAR him say it.  The camera was just focused on him and those adept at lip reading could make out him forming the word.  Come on!  Let’s focus cameras on Kevin Garnett, J.R. Smith and Nate Robinson during Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs and see if any of them have any money in their bank accounts by Round 2.  I guess speech certainly isn’t “free” in the NBA.  Odd though, that certain words cost more.

Cursing is not only a part of the NBA but a part of American culture, like it or not.  One of the main influences on NBA players and fans is the hip-hop industry which literally makes a living by exclaiming profanities.  Most of the time they are worded in far more offensive and hurtful ways than Kobe’s momentary outburst of frustration too.  I still see “Knicks and Nets give Jay-Z high-fives” while he sits courtside.

Let’s also examine the city of Los Angeles, famous for Hollywood and the plethora of entertainment it produces.  Comedy seems to be one of the most consistent and universally enjoyed forms of this entertainment as movies that make people laugh always seem to do well at the box office.

The word faggot is prevalent in many of today’s comedy movies, used in the same exact manor as Kobe meant it…a casual word used to insult someone who did something he didn’t agree with.  He wasn’t making a statement against the gay community or even intending the word to have any homosexual connotation to it.

And what is the big deal with the “word” anyways.  If GLAAD and other offended people are up-in-arms about Kobe using a gay slur but not actually taking a shot at gay culture, why aren’t they up in arms when people attack gay culture WITHOUT using that word.

Off the top of my head I can recall several movies where one person calls another gay and clearly means it negatively and the other person gets mad or offended.  Think about one of the “funniest” scenes in the classic comedy, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” where Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd are sitting around playing video games and bantering back and forth by telling each other, “You know how I know you’re gay.”  It’s a funny scene but the term gay is definitely not used as a compliment there.

Why can funny movies, which are not just seen by millions more people than an NBA game but are seen over and over again on TV and DVD, get away with degrading gay culture on PURPOSE!?  And yet, Kobe gets fined the average yearly income of over three American households for using it without thinking in the heat of battle?

My point is, the league tried to make an example out of Kobe by fining him an obscene amount of money in an attempt to prevent more of its stars from making anti-gay comments.  David Stern clearly doesn’t care about players outside the spotlight so Kobe’s lip-sync sufficed as his spring board.

Most of the people reading have probably used the word faggot or it’s shorter, more commonly used alternate “fag”, multiple times when interacting with their friends.  In most every case, it’s with no thought of gay culture, it’s just the word used in certain situations in American culture.

“C’mon man, lets go to the gym.”

“Nah man, I’m kinda tired, I’m gonna stay here.”

“Ahh c’mon dude, don’t be a fag.  Let’s go!”

Is this a good thing?  Of course not.  Should people be using a word that pertains to an entire group of people negatively so casually?  Of course not.  But does it happen and is its normal utterance not really a big deal?  YES!

In the hip-hop/tattoo/ego-driven NBA, should someone have been fined $100,000 because a TV camera caught him mouthing a bad word?  OF COURSE NOT!

Maybe this is just me getting worked up over an issue most people have moved on about but I think it’s the most egregious abuse of power David Stern has exerted in years.  Compounding it is the fact that this happens all the time, to a greater degree, by hundreds of players!  Yet he choose to single out Kobe because he’s the face of the NBA.

I definitely believe Kobe should have been reprimanded however.  This isn’t an argument again that.  However, I think maybe a $25,000 fine and some charity work for GLAAD or something would be sufficient.  But this?  Nah, Kobe didn’t deserve this.

I could go on and on and compare his punishment to some others that have been received throughout sports but basically the point has been made.

David Stern singled out a famous player who made a mistake and pounded him to try to prevent future offenses.  That’s fine.  I just wish the fine had been more reasonable and he’d owned up to it instead of pretending that this punishment is fair.

In a way though, it could have been the best thing to happen to Kobe.  We all know he’s one of those players that is fueled by adversity and driven by people doubting him.  We all saw the shot he hit the following night against Sacramento which, I think, may have saved the Lakers playoff hopes.

I can’t wait to see what he unleashes on New Orleans.  I’m guessing he turns one of the NBA’s most tenuous franchises into little bitches in Round 1.

It’s cool for me to say that too because, you know, the NBA obviously doesn’t care about people using slurs about women.

Or race.

Or religion.

Just listen to the profanity you hear during this season’s playoff coverage and see if the players using the words are fined…or just the famous ones.

I know I will.

-Brad Vipperman

Follow me on Twitter @TeamVip33

This article can also be seen at The Penalty Flag Blog