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Why Fine NBA Players For Gay Slurs?


Where will Roy Hibbert's $75,000 go?

Indiana Pacers Center Roy Hibbert is the latest NBA player to find himself fined for making a homophobia remarks during a new conference after Saturday's win against the Miami heat. Explaining he felt bad for not helping teammate Paul George take down juggernaut LeBron James, Hibbert said. "I let Paul down in terms of having his back when LeBron was scoring in the post or getting to the paint, because they stretched me out so much. No homo." He will now pay $75,000 for that comment and also for referring to reporters as "motherfuckers."

Believe it or not, Hibbert's not the first basketball player to be fined for anti-gay comments and a foul mouth. LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant paid $100,000 for calling a referee a "fucking faggot" in 2011. Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls was fined $50,000 that same year after he said "fuck you faggot" to a fan he says was jeering him. Amar'e Stoudemire from the New York Knicks also paid $50,000 for an anti-gay outburst. In this case it was 2012, last year, when he wrote to a fan on Twitter, "Fuck you, I don't have to do any thing, fag." With Hibbert's case, the grand total of money made from such fines totals $275,000. That's a small fraction of the total $11,488,000 collected from players, coaches and teams since 2003, but the penalties are notable. The average fine over the last decade, from fouling to drunk driving to posting ladies' asses on Twitter, has been $33,689, according to the ticket site SeatCrunch.

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But what happens to this fine money? It isn't exactly marked and followed. The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) split the money and then donate the dollars to charities of their choosing. That's all we know. SeatCrunch notes that unlike Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NHL, the NBA doesn't make its specific donations public. However, the association's charitable arm, NBA Cares, has spent $210 million on its various projects -- building new basketball courts for kids, hosting summer camps and other extracurricular events -- since 2005. One of the initiatives NBA Cares has gotten behind is gay education group GLSEN's Think Before You Speak campaign against anti-gay speech, so one would assume that at least some of the fines for homophobic language would be going to pro-LGBT causes. But what if they weren't? Would it make the fines worthless? If the money raised from anti-gay slurs isn't going to help LGBT rights, does it still make a difference?

Perhaps when considering these questions its best to look beyond tangible spending habits and at the cycle of behavior. Hibbert, 26, apologized within hours after making his comment. "I am apologizing for insensitive remarks made during the postgame press conference after our victory over Miami Saturday night," he said. "They were disrespectful and offensive and not a reflection of my personal views. I used a slang term that is not appropriate in any setting, private or public, and the language I used definitely has no place in a public forum, especially over live television. I apologize to those who I have offended, to our fans and to the Pacers' organization. I sincerely have deep regret over my choice of words last night." Hibbert even reached out to Jason Collins, the NBA player who came out in April, to discuss how to move forward. The Pacer has been praised by gay groups for his fact action.

Elsewhere, former offender Kobe Bryant hit down two Twitter followers for using anti-gay language this year. "Just letting you know @pacsmoove @pookeo9 that using 'your gay' as a way to put someone down ain't ok! #notcool delete that out ur vocab," he wrote to them and 2.5 million followers. He also addressed his homophobic past, "That wasn't cool and was ignorant on my part. I own it and learn from it and expect the same from others." Bryant learned his lesson, and Hibbert's obviously determined to learn one of his own, so fines apparently do work. This leaves just one more question: Can a price be put on a cultural sea change in what is often called the last bastion of homophobia, the wide world of sports?

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Andrew Belonsky