''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 had demanded a fuller apology from Bryant and condemnation of his words by the Lakers. Bryant, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying his words came strictly out of anger 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, throwing 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.''
His No. 24 jersey was the league's best-selling uniform among fans during each of the past two seasons, and Bryant's jersey finished second to LeBron James' new Miami uniform in the NBA's annual rankings released earlier Wednesday.
Gay-rights groups quickly denounced Bryant's actions against Adams. Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, saw an opportunity to put a spotlight on the unacceptable nature of anti-gay slurs.
''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.''
Known as a fierce competitor with a nasty edge, Bryant has ranked among the NBA's top 10 accumulators of technical fouls during each of the past six seasons, and he has edged right up to the line of serious NBA discipline this spring. He ranks second only to Orlando's Dwight Howard in technical fouls this season, mostly for arguing with referees.
Bryant was called for an additional technical foul that was rescinded Monday. If Bryant gets another T in the Lakers' season finale at Sacramento on Wednesday night, he would be suspended for the first game of next season, not for a playoff game.
The Lakers will open the playoffs this weekend at Staples Center.
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