UPDATE 12:57 am: After the game Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah admitted to using a gay slur against a fan and apologized for it, as reported by the Associated Press.
“I apologize,” Noah told reporters. “The fan said something to me that I thought was disrespectful, and I got caught up in the moment, and I responded. I said some things that I shouldn’t have said. I was frustrated and I didn’t mean any disrespect to anybody.”
That was good of Noah to do, the right thing to do. Own up to your mistakes. That’s not going to save him from the massive fine on the way, that precedent has been set.
12:10 am: After picking up his second foul early in the first quarter of the Chicago Bulls’ Game 3 loss to the Miami Heat, Joakim Noah was caught by TNT cameras using the same gay slur that Kobe Bryant directed at referee Benny Adams in April. TNT cameras followed Noah to the bench, where Noah was in an argument with a fan and appeared to call him a “f*****g f****t.”
When Bryant was caught using the slur, it caused significant controversy, and Bryant was ultimately forced to pay a $100,000 fine. Since the incident, both the NBA and the Lakers have produced PSAs about the use of slurs regarding race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
Given that Noah directed his slur at a fan and not at a referee, he probably won’t have to pay as heavy a fine as Bryant did, but it seems like the league has set a precedent for the use of on-court slurs that was not in place when Kevin Garnett was caught using them in the 2008 playoffs, so a fine seems highly likely.
The lesson here is obvious: when you are on the court, a camera could be watching you at any time, so it’s probably for the best to conduct yourself as if millions of all ages, races, and sexual orientations are watching your every statement and move. If you don’t, you had better be prepared to pay the consequences.