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Will Kobe Bryant's homophobic slur be a catalyst for change?

Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (L) argues with a referee after getting a technical foul during their NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in Los Angeles, California, April 12, 2011.


There's a chance that homophobia in professional sports just became a little more distasteful. After Los Angeles Lakers' star Kobe Bryant hurled insults at a referee last week, which included a common homophobic slur, the star was fined $100,000.

On Friday, the team began consultations with the American group, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, according to USA Today.

"We also understand the importance of positive messages in helping us convey this. We appreciate the input we've received from GLAAD the past two days and will look forward to working with them on ways to help educate ourselves and our fans, and to help keep language like this out of our game," Lakers spokesman John Black told the paper.

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That may come as good news to former NBA player John Amaechi, who is gay. Mr. Amaechi wrote a pointed column to Bryant in the New York Times last week calling him out for using the "f-word." Despite its widespread casual use, Bryant should understand that it still has the power to sting, he suggested.

"When someone with the status of Kobe Bryant, arguably the best basketball player in a generation, hurls that antigay slur at a referee or anyone else - let's call it the F-word - he is telling boys, men and anyone watching that when you are frustrated, when you are as angry as can be, the best way to demean and denigrate a person, even one in a position of power, is to make it clear that you think he is not a real man, but something less."

The NBA also has committed to meeting with GLADD about ways to reach out to its audience to discourage homophobia, according to USA Today.

After working with GLAAD, the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball adopted a policy that prohibits anti-gay slurs in Yankee Stadium. It also has worked with World Wrestling Entertainment, the paper reports.

In Canada, hockey fans will recall the case of Brendan Burke, whose NHL-coach father has stepped up to fight homophobia in sport.

Can this latest effort make a difference, or is it mostly a public-penance gesture? It certainly hasn't helped the Lakers luck yet; they lost their first game of the playoffs Sunday.

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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