Miami Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was fined $50,000 on Monday for directing an anti-gay slur at a fan during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, and vowed to learn from the incident.
The NBA released its decision hours after speaking with Noah, saying the fine was “for using a derogatory and offensive term from the bench.”
The fine is only half of what Los Angeles Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant was assessed for shouting the same slur toward a referee last month, and the league said the discrepancy was because the sanction against Bryant was based on both what he said — and who he said it to.
“Kobe’s fine included discipline for verbal abuse of a game official,” NBA spokesman Mark Broussard said.
Noah and NBA officials met Monday morning. Noah said he emerged from that talk prepared to “pay the price” for what happened when he returned to the bench with two fouls midway through the first quarter of Sunday night’s game against the Miami Heat.
That price turned out to be 1.6 percent of his roughly $3.1 million salary this season. Noah agreed to an extension last year, worth about $60 million through the 2015-16 season.
Meanwhile, two major advocacy groups quickly called upon the league to both sanction Noah and help further educate players on the topic.
“The fan said something that was disrespectful towards me,” Noah said, about five hours before the fine was announced. “And I went back at him. Got it on camera. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m not like that. I’m an open-minded guy. I said the wrong thing and I’m going to pay the consequences — deal with the consequences — like a man. I don’t want to be a distraction to the team right now.”
Television cameras captured Noah saying an expletive, followed by the slur. Noah said he did not realize the gravity of the situation until he was questioned by reporters after the game Sunday, adding that he meant “no disrespect” to anyone.
Bryant was fined $100,000 last month, and just last week, Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts revealed he was gay, a rare acknowledgement for someone holding a prominent position in men’s sports.
“We know what business we are in,” Heat forward LeBron James said Monday. “Emotions get played. ... I don’t think it was right what he said. But emotions do get said over the course of the game. We know there’s going to be microphones. We know there’s going to be cameras around. You just have to be cautious about what you say and just try to control your emotions as much as possible.”
The Heat won Sunday’s game 96-85, taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is tonight in Miami.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, said it reached out to the NBA and the Bulls on Monday “to discuss next steps.”