Chicago Bulls Basketball Player Joakim Noah Fined $50,000 For His Homophobic Slur

Punishment

Yesterday we learned the sad news (and saw the disappointing video) that Chicago Bulls basketball player Joakim Noah hurled a homophobic slur at a fan on national TV during Game 3 of the Bulls NBA playoffs game against the Miami Heat over the weekend. Today we learn that the NBA has decided to fine Noah $50,000. for the offense … which is half of the fine leveled against LA Lakers basketball player Kobe Bryant last month for the same offense. But, the NBA explains, Bryant‘s slur was aimed at an NBA official so that is why his fine was higher. Apparently, it costs less to call fans “faggots” than it does to yell the same thing to an NBA official.

A contrite Joakim Noah was fined $50,000 Monday by the NBA for directing an anti-gay slur toward a fan during the first quarter of Sunday’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. The NBA office announced that Noah was fined for “using a derogatory and offensive term from the bench.” A league spokesman said Noah was fined less than the $100,000 assessed the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant for using the same term because “Kobe’s fine included discipline for verbal abuse of a game official.” Earlier in the day, Noah apologized again as teammates rallied to his defense.
“I just want to apologize,” Noah said after a team film session at their local hotel. “I had just picked up my second foul. I was frustrated. He said something that was disrespectful toward me and I lost my cool. “People who know me know I’m an open-minded guy. I’m not here to hurt anybody’s feelings. I’m just here to help win a basketball game.” Noah spoke with league officials early Monday morning. “Sometimes fans say things that are overboard,” Noah said. “But it’s on us not to react. If you react, they win. And I did. It was a bad decision on my part. And I’m going to face some pretty severe consequences.” Several teammates came to Noah’s defense and said the fan directed a slur regarding Noah’s mother. “What Jo said is something out of frustration — he has to do a better job of controlling his emotion,” Bulls forward Luol Deng said. “But that fan should have been out of the game. He should have been thrown out way before. He just kept going at him, and in an emotional game like that, and things not going Jo’s way, it’s just human nature to react. I know Jo and I know he didn’t mean what he said at all. “At the same time, there are times when a fan like that — honestly, I feel like jumping in the crowd and hitting him. We’re humans. And the camera is not on that fan at all. I know Jo apologized and everything, but people have to see it the other way, too. Everyone says things they don’t mean. He let the emotion get the better of him. But honestly, with a game like that, hearing that fan — I wanted to do something about it, too. Unfortunately for Jo, he has to pay the price.” Bulls big man Taj Gibson said the abusive fan targeted Noah relentlessly. “I was able to hear it, but I can’t basically say what they were saying,” Gibson said. “It was really over the line. It was going on for the entire time Joakim walked back to our bench until he sat down, and they kept getting on him the whole time. At first, he looked, Joakim looked to see who was saying it, and the guy just kept going. I know the crowd — the crowd looked at the guy, too, like come on, leave him alone, it’s over. “He was really loud. He was a big guy, too. He was intoxicated. When I saw him, I was just surprised, because he kept going and going. Normally a fan may say a couple things and sit down, but he just kept going at Joakim. And it was Joakim the entire time. Even when I was sitting on the bench with Joakim, even when the plays were off, he was still going. Basically the whole game.” Noah knows he didn’t handle it well. “It’s a big game,” Noah said. “I got frustrated and let my emotions get the best of me.”


Despite all the back-up from his teammates (who clearly think that it is excusable to hurl homophobic slurs at people — idiots, really — out of frustration), I’m glad to hear that Joakim Noah does sound truly sorry for his offense. Look, I get that fans yell really nasty things at athletes (many of those things are homophobic in nature, I’m sure) but until we learn that homophobic and racial slurs are inexcusable to use under any circumstances, we still have a long way to go toward exercising tolerance and acceptance of one another. I get it, Noah was frustrated and angry … why not call the unruly fan an asshole, a fucker, a dipshit, a moron, etc. If the fan had been of a different race, I highly doubt a racial slur would’ve slipped so easily from his lips … because we have learned as a society that racial slurs are among the most horrible things to say. We must learn that homophobic and other like offense terms are also completely off-limits. Sadly, I doubt that this sort of offense will end anytime soon in professional sports … but now that we are all watching, are all aware and are championing the punishment of such behavior … well, maybe there will come a time when calling someone a “faggot” (or similar type slur) would be so unthinkable that the word will fall out of use altogether.

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  1. Panti Christ

    I am glad he was fined and hope it was a punishment to him.

  2. Katie

    I’m not a big basketball fan so I’m not sure how popular this guy is, I have never heard of him before. I wonder how much of his salary this $50K represents vs someone that is really high profile like Kobe. I wonder if that goes into their at all decison when leveling fines. Not that it really matters, both are disgusting. I just wonder if when it comes down to money this is going to be a bigger deal to this guy.

  3. shannon

    I think the fine was less because he at least attempted to do damage control immediately. I don’t think it was a double-standard that it’s worse to insult a ref than it is to insult a fan. Now, if only the NBA would donate the fine to NoH8 or HRC or another LGBT nonprofit.

  4. jadedsweetie

    i agree that slurs period should be silenced. but joakim is from a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural background. i’ll say it, miami fans are asshole douchebag motherfuckers. it’s sad that that particular word evidently has more cruelty behind it. but he’s nothing like kobe.

  5. comeon

    It is absurd that he was fined for this. The NBA has no business infringing on the first amendment rights of its players. The instigating fan should have been thrown out instantly and the network fined for choosing to show a close-up shot of an understandably frustrated player and then broadcasting it over the air.
    If people would stop getting so offended over anti-gay slurs, then people will stop using them. They are only effective because people over-react to them so absurdly. Words are just words, its people who give them meaning.

    • @comeon — I completely disagree with you. The NBA absolutely has a responsibility to police the behaviors of their players. Professional athletes sign contracts — worth millions — where they agree to a set of parameters that are controlled by the NBA. If they want the first amendment right to say whatever they like, they can give back their millions and find other employment. This kind of behavior should absolutely be punished to the furthest extent possible each and every time.

    • Ella Bean

      @Trent… THIS! I totally agree with you! Regardless of first amendment rights too, NO ONE should be hurling those sorts of words at ANYONE!

    • Janaegal

      @Comeon- Your reasoning is (of course) a little backward. You think the first amendment right of the player should be protected but the fan yelling the insults should get thrown out? Why wouldn’t you want his first amendment right protected as well. As for your reasoning on people being able to use anti-gay slurs, I’ve heard this reasoning many times and it’s usually from a white male you would NEVER say the N word in front of a black person. It’s absurd.

      The bottom line is this, the player got fined because HE is under a multi million dollar contract with the NBA and HE broke the rules…rules that are in place for valid and in my opinion, very right reasons. If he values his first amendment so much, he needs to walk away from his contract. He does seem incredibly apologetic though.

    • SuzieB

      Totally agree with you @Trent! I’m kind of confused though why Kobe was fined $100K and this dude $50K. Is it because Kobe has more $$?

    • perdiz

      i hate to break it to you but first amendment rights are only violated if the government is involved. anyone else can interfere with your speech all they want.

  6. Beth

    To respond to Katie, Noah is one of the big stars of the Bulls and has been a starter since joining the team. He just got a 5 year/$60 million contract extension. He’s not hurting for money! However, I think his fine is reasonable. However inappropriate use of such language may be, when the NBA is who is doing the fining, I agree that there is a difference between calling a fan a name and calling an official a name. He is known for having a temper, but he seemed genuinely apologetic, so hopefully he has learned from this.

  7. Scott

    I am SO SICK of all of these people, athletes or otherwise, in the public eye spewing these TERRIBLE,HATEFUL words and then giving us the obligatory “i’m sorry”. I am glad some are being fined but that doesn’t take back what they said in front of millions.

  8. Jaks

    I agree Noah should be fined, whether it was in the heat of the moment or not. I also get that these athletes cannot react to fans like this, however when is something going to be done about fans who get drunk and hurl terrible insults all game long? Maybe that is a topic for a different day.

  9. Dot

    I don’t know how to explain this but I think that many people don’t think of these words as offensive because you can hear them everywhere even in the films, like for example “the hangover” and that scene “paging doctor fa**ot”. I’m not trying to explain what he did but I do believe that when you hear someone using this word in the film (still in an offensive way) and everyone’s laughing at it you end up with thinking that’s it’s OK to use this word.

    • @Dot — “I do believe that when you hear someone using this word in the film (still in an offensive way) and everyone’s laughing at it you end up with thinking that’s it’s OK to use this word.” And that is part of the problem. This kind of behavior is far too prevalent not to be punished when it can be punished.

  10. Baybridget

    Trent- I am so proud of you. I have been reading your blog for years and you NEVER shy away from standing up for what is right.

  11. andrea

    get over it.

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