(The New York Times)-The N.B.A. fined Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert $75,000 Sunday, hours after Hibbert apologized for using an antigay slur and an obscenity in a news conference after his team’s victory against the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.
“While Roy has issued an apology, which is no doubt sincere, a fine is necessary to reinforce that such offensive comments will not be tolerated by the N.B.A.,” Commissioner David Stern said in a statement.
In his postgame comments Saturday in Indianapolis, Hibbert used the term “no homo” when answering a question about defending the Heat star LeBron James on a play in the second half that resulted in James’s being called for an offensive foul. He later directed an obscenity toward reporters after being questioned on another topic.
The phrase has its roots in hip-hop culture; it was popularized by hip-hop artists like Cam’ron, Lil Wayne and Kanye West. It is most frequently used as a coda to a statement that could be construed as having a homosexual double entendre.
In this case, Hibbert, on the podium with his teammate Paul George, mumbled the words after saying, “In Game 3 here, I really felt 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.” He then smiled and chuckled for a few moments.
On Sunday morning, in a statement released by the Pacers, Hibbert apologized for what he called “insensitive remarks.”
“They were disrespectful and offensive and not a reflection of my personal views,” Hibbert said in the statement. “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.”
This is not the first time the N.B.A. has disciplined a player for using an antigay slur. In 2011, it fined Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, one of the league’s biggest stars, $100,000 for directing a slur at a referee. It fined Joakim Noah of the Bulls $50,000, also in 2011, for a slur against a fan during a game in the Eastern Conference finals.
Several athletes and organizations responded Sunday to Hibbert’s postgame comments.
Athlete Ally, an anti-bullying organization that has partnered with the league and its players union to educate players about homosexuality, released a statement saying, “We are disappointed by Hibbert’s comments, as that kind of language is disrespectful, has no place in sports and is antithetical to the N.B.A.’s policies.”
Brendon Ayanbadejo, an N.F.L. player on the Athlete Ally board, said in a statement that Hibbert’s comments “show his lack of awareness on this issue.”
“He often talks about love and seems to be a positive and caring person,” Ayanbadejo said. “I think he has potential to be an ally and I hope he takes this moment and learns from it.”
In a conference call Sunday, Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said he did not have to talk to Hibbert to tell him his actions were offensive. Vogel also said he and the rest of the Pacers organization supported Hibbert.
“Obviously, he made a great mistake,” Vogel said. “He feels horribly about it. I told him, basically, that we’ve got to move on from it.”
On the league’s Web site, Hibbert’s slur is edited out of the video of the news conference, although an obscenity that Hibbert used was not. In that instance, Hibbert, a strong defensive presence on the court, particularly in this series, was responding to a question premised on the fact that he finished only 10th in the voting for the N.B.A.’s defensive player of the year.
After using the expletive, Hibbert said the reporters who cover the league “don’t watch us play throughout the year, to tell you the truth.”
“I’m going to be real with you, and I don’t care if I get fined,” he said. “We play, and we’re not on TV all of the time, and reporters are the ones that are voting, and it is what it is.”