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.