LOS ANGELES — The NBA fined Kobe Bryant $100,000 on Wednesday for using a derogatory gay term in frustration over a referee's call.
NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a swift disciplinary ruling after the five-time NBA champion guard cursed and used a common homophobic slur when referee Bennie Adams called a technical foul on him Tuesday night in the third quarter of Los Angeles' win over the Spurs.
"Kobe Bryant's comment during last night's game was offensive and inexcusable," Stern said. "While I'm fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated. ... Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society."
Stern's action drew praise from gay-rights organizations that have demanded a fuller apology from Bryant and the Lakers. Bryant issued a statement earlier Wednesday, saying his words came out of frustration and shouldn't be taken literally.
"We applaud Commissioner Stern and the NBA for not only fining Bryant but for recognizing that slurs and derogatory comments have no place on the basketball court or in society at large," Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said. "We hope such swift and decisive action will send a strong and universal message that this kind of hateful outburst is simply inexcusable no matter what the context."
Bryant's words and actions were captured by TNT's cameras during the network's national broadcast of the Lakers' regular-season home finale.
Bryant punched his chair before taking a seat on the bench and threw a towel on the court near his feet in frustration after picking up his fourth foul in the third quarter. He got his 15th technical of the season for arguing the call, one shy of the cumulative trigger for a one-game NBA suspension.
"What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period," Bryant said in a statement issued through the Lakers. "The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone."
Gay-rights groups denounced Bryant's actions. Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay&Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said slurs are unacceptable.
"Professional sports players need to set a better example for young people who use words like this on the playground and in our schools, creating a climate of intolerance and hostility," Barrios said. "The LA Lakers have a responsibility to educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable."
Bryant has edged right up to the line of serious NBA discipline this season, ranking second only to Orlando's Dwight Howard in technical fouls — mostly for arguing with referees. Bryant was called for an additional technical foul that was rescinded Monday.
If Bryant gets another technical foul in the Lakers' season finale at Sacramento on Wednesday night, he would be suspended for the first game of next season.
The Lakers will open the playoffs this weekend at Staples Center.