Kobe Bryant, Anti-Gay Slurs, & the Fans who Defend Homophobia & “Rape Culture”

NBA superstar and all around superhuman wannabe-rapper, Shaquille O’Neal, dissed Kobe Bryant by kicking a fresh sixteen onetime with the hook, “Kobe, tell me how my ass taste.” I’m not sure if you remember that, but we all laughed. Speaking of memory lane; I bet you didn’t remember that at one point in time, Kobe was also poised to get into the rap game with the launch of an album. An album that we all figured would be reminiscent of another famed Philly rapper who broke it down about the complexities of the child-parent relationship. Surely as clean cut as pre-rape Kobe was, there was no way he’d release an album with the typical misogyny of your everyday NBA player-wannabe-rapper type. Shout out to former Laker Cedric Ceballos?

But then came the Colorado rape allegations, and suddenly Kobe wasn’t as clean cut as everyone thought him to be. I mean let’s be honest: you don’t get to do Sprite commercials with a tarnished image. Yep, just ask Chris Brown; he knows how that works. So here we are today, several years removed from the teary-eyed press conference, the apology, and most important of all, the number change which marked the “rebirth” of the Kobe Bryant brand. After all, it was the number-eight-wearing Kobe who cheated on his wife, and had the potential of spending years in prison for rape. Yep, number-twenty-four-wearing Kobe would do no such thing; and all was forgotten by Laker fans.

Kobe bounced back, and even won a few more championships along the way. Yes, the heir apparent was back. Well, that would be up until being handed a $100,000 fine by NBA commissioner-for-life David Stern, for an on-court outburst directed at a referee. Kobe “allegedly” (I gotta say allegedly because I wasn’t there and I ain’t trynna get sued) called the referee a “fucking faggot,” in a not-so-friendly sorta way. Let’s just say he said it not in the same way a guy will say it to his buddy; not without the expectation of being punched in the face. But at some point you grow up, and you don’t play that game. You realize it to be immature, and you don’t use the word. Definitely not towards a guy you don’t know as an expression of discontent. That is, unless you’re into pain and getting your teeth kicked in, in some weird death wish fetish “Fight Club” sorta way. Believe it or not, there are actually people like this; but not Kobe Bryant.
“My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period […] The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.” – Kobe BryantNow the thing that bugs me, is that some people are unhappy with the discipline levied by the NBA. For some, this is really no big deal, and it’s not like he smacked the referee, choked his coach, or anything deserving of a $100,000 fine and a one game suspension. Yes, one friggin’ game, and his fans are mad. I swear the way some are responding to this, you’d think Kobe Bryant was gon’ let them hold some money tomorrow or something. Of course some people take the F-A-N in the word fanatic quite seriously, and can be a bit irrational. For example, I love Brett Favre, and I don’t see what was the big fuss about him sending pictures of his penis to a lady who never requested them. OK, so what he’s married; with the advances in technology those rules go out the window; everybody sends naked pics to people these days; what, you’ve never used a social networking site? OK, I’m straying a bit, but you get the point.

In thinking about this latest Kobe incident, I have to wonder if it’s really fanaticism and the irrationality associated with it, as the causes for this type of reaction. Or is it that Hip Hop – which is associated with youth culture – actually promotes misogyny and “rape culture,” as Ashley Judd said recently. Maybe this explains why it was easy to laugh at Shaq’s, “tell me how my ass taste, Kobe,” diss; or, even seek to defend and justify Lawrence Taylor’s position in his recent rape case. After all, Hip Hop represents an over abundance of “bitches” and “hoes,” that I can see where some may not see the word “faggot” as a slur, or as really no big deal. For some, an anti-gay slur isn’t a slur because, well, it just isn’t a slur. And it is this rationale I seriously take issue with, and need help in understanding; there’s nothing productive by reinforcing homophobia, and sexual stereotypes in sports; professional and otherwise.

However, to those folks I ask: had the referee responded to Kobe’s comment by calling him a “nigger,” would that not have been a big enough deal as well? Mind you, I’m not blaming Hip Hop; I’m just trying to find some understanding of this behavior. Because from where I’m sitting, professional athlete superstar or not, giving someone a pass on any derogatory slur is unacceptable. Doing so reinforces the sickness that is our male dominated patriarchal society; and that’s not a good thing. And to me, this is why Kobe feels justified to appeal the NBA’s $100,000 fine. In my mind, Kobe believes that he’s beyond reproach because he is who he is, and has never been held accountable publicly for any wrong doing. But I’m sorry Kobe; changing your number; reaching out to LGBT orgs; or buying everyone in California who’s gay a diamond ring just isn’t gonna cut it. It’s time to own your deed as any responsible adult would. It’s time to put away little boy games, grow the hell up, and cut the damn check; it’s not gonna hurt you, or what respect you have left.