Kobe Bryant has been fined $100,000 by the NBA for using a derogatory gay term in frustration over a referee's call.
NBA Commissioner David Stern announced the disciplinary action Wednesday, saying the distasteful term used by Bryant should never be tolerated.
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. He also punched a chair and threw a towel during the outburst.
Gay rights groups condemned Bryant's actions and demanded a full apology after Bryant issued a statement explaining his words came out of anger. Bryant has 15 technical fouls this season.
After Bryant issued a statement Wednesday, saying his words came out of frustration and shouldn't be taken literally, the Human Rights Campaign demanded an apology from Bryant rather than an explanation. The HRC also called on the Lakers to condemn Bryant's slur.
"For better or worse, Kobe Bryant has created a teachable moment for the millions of fans - many of them young - who saw that outburst on the floor," HRC President Joe Solmonese said. "And the right thing to do now is to apologize and take responsibility for suggesting that the worst thing you can do to someone is to scream out a gay slur. This kind of homophobic outburst has dangerous consequences, even more so when it comes from a celebrity in the national spotlight."
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 issued statements denouncing 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.
© 2011 The Associated Press.