NBA Fines Noah 50K For Gay Slur

I'm a big fan of former Florida Gator and current Chicago Bull Joakim Noah. Like Charles Barkley, Noah is my favorite player. In Sunday night's game against the Heat, Noah delivered a gay slur at a heckling fan. He issued an apology immediately after the game, and was fined Monday by the NBA:

The NBA on Monday fined Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah $50,000 for hurling profanity and a gay slur at a fan during the Bulls’ Game 3 loss to the Miami Heat. Noah had immediately apologized for the slur and said he expected a stiff financial penalty for his words. “I got caught up. A fan said something,” Noah said after Sunday’s game. “I said something back. I apologize. I don’t mean no disrespect to anybody.”

I believe and hope the apology was sincere. Noah's a pretty openly progressive person politically, so it is not a stretch to believe the apology was sincere. Hopefully, he'll learn from this incident. Also, I hope he has a good game tonight against the Heat, who lead the series 2-1 over the Bulls.

Speaking for me only

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    Speaking of the Word... (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by ScottW714 on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:31:38 PM EST
    ... 'gay', pretty soon it can't mention it in Tennessee if you are an educator of children.  Homosexuality is off limits as a topic to kids in elementary and junior high schools.

    I am in Texas, and this topic, even here, just seems old, are we still fighting this tired fight.  I though we were on to civil unions and marriage, 'indoctrinating' kids is so last decade, maybe even last century.

    Noah screwed up, he maybe progressive but why is the first word out of his mouth at a fan a slur against gays.  Think of the press had it been a racial slur, pretty sure that would have been a game changer.  Live and learn I guess.

    Good to see the NBA on top of it, that non-sense has no business on prime time, or rather TNT.

    No more productions (none / 0) (#13)
    by jbindc on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:33:22 PM EST
    of "West Side Story"?

    I feel pretty.
    Oh, so pretty.
    I feel pretty, and witty and gay!"

    Guess he should be glad it was a fan (none / 0) (#1)
    by Anne on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:08:43 PM EST
    and not a referee, since, as I recall, wasn't it Kobe who got a much larger fine for hurling the same slur at a ref?

    But here's my real question: without suggesting what Noah said was okay - it wasn't - would he have ended up with a big fine, and would anyone have paid this much attention to what happened, if the cameras hadn't been sort of stalking him, almost waiting to see if he would react to the heckling?

    Full disclosure: I wasn't watching the game in question, but heard a discussion about the incident on the radio, and this was one of the questions - and concerns - raised.

    Kobe was fined 100K (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:10:22 PM EST
    NBA says it was because it was directed at a ref.

    Either way, it was wrong and NBA was right to fine him for it.

    He's still my favorite player.


    How does (none / 0) (#3)
    by jbindc on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:15:33 PM EST
    That term flow so easily from the lips of someone who is supposedly so politcally progressive?

    We all have bigotry inside us (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:16:57 PM EST

    We fight to stamp it out.


    I guess (none / 0) (#6)
    by jbindc on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:19:59 PM EST
    Agreed, but We All Don't Have... (none / 0) (#14)
    by ScottW714 on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:34:00 PM EST
    ... slurs at the tips of our tongues.

    We all don't have cameras on us (none / 0) (#17)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:38:00 PM EST
    at all times.

    Let me put it this way, I am pretty confident Noah feels worse about it than Kobe did. From my linked article on Noah being progressive:

    "When Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was caught on camera Sunday night appearing to hurl the word "f-----" at an obnoxious fan, it was particularly heartbreaking.

    Noah grew up in Manhattan's Soho, steps from the West Village. His childhood could scarcely have been more worldly; he literally attended the United Nations International School. His mother is Cecilia Rodhe, a sculptor and art therapist from Sweden, and his father is Frenchman Yannick Noah, who is also of Cameroonian descent.

    Rodhe's best friend was Robert Tracy, a prolific writer and dancer whose partner was Rudolf Nureyev, one of the most talented ballet dancers of the 20th century. Tracy was with Rodhe the day she learned she was pregnant with Joakim. To young Joakim, Tracy -- who died in 2007 -- was simply known as "Mom," and was a frequent presence at Noah's basketball games.

    This is the world Joakim grew up in and one he remains extremely close to. After his disappointing on-court performance in Game 3 -- and before he realized a storm was brewing about the slur he unleashed -- Noah had already texted his mother.

    When word of the epithet reached Rodhe she was shocked. "My kids grew up in a home that was never anything other than open-minded," Rodhe says in a phone interview. "We're multicultural and multiracial."

    Rodhe, the founder of Joakim's Noah's Arc Foundation, was admittedly disappointed, though she rationalized the context. "He chose the wrong word," Rodhe says. "He wanted to say, 'Move away and stop harassing me,' but he lost control and used that word."

    Noah was contrite on Monday, apologizing profusely for hurling the epithet. As we sat down to talk at the team hotel on Monday, Noah, knowing I was an out, gay sportswriter, opened the conversation with "I'm really sorry about what I said." The discussion continues from there:

    Kevin Arnovitz: I understand. I just wish it hadn't been you. I mean, that word is hard to hear no matter who says it, but you're supposed to be one of the enlightened guys. You're the guy who grew up in Soho and has European parents and friends all over the world. There are a lot of players in the league who, whether because they come from certain backgrounds or maybe choose not to care, don't surprise me. But you surprised me."


    All the more reason (none / 0) (#21)
    by jbindc on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:42:15 PM EST
    That it is perplexing that he would use this particular term.  Shouldn't even be in his vocabulary.

    He also plays basketball (none / 0) (#24)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:43:59 PM EST
    Unfortunately, the word is uttered a lot in those settings.

    I think you'd be hard-pressed (none / 0) (#25)
    by andgarden on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:44:09 PM EST
    to find a similarly-situated person for whom it isn't.

    Not Necessary (none / 0) (#32)
    by ScottW714 on Tue May 24, 2011 at 04:12:12 PM EST
    The more I think about, the more I realize how easily stooopid S comes out of my mouth or keyboard.  Maybe not slurs, but no less embarrassing.

    This is obviously true (none / 0) (#20)
    by andgarden on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:40:28 PM EST
    I have a relative--who will go unnamed--who finds it occasionally impossible to exercise mouth control while behind the wheel.

    God that's so true (none / 0) (#50)
    by Militarytracy on Tue May 24, 2011 at 08:45:18 PM EST
    What is familiar is safe, what is unfamiliar can be intimidating or scary and then suddenly........

    His explanation was (none / 0) (#5)
    by Zorba on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:17:56 PM EST
    "heat of the moment," but that's a good question, jb.  

    I don't know about "easily," but (none / 0) (#7)
    by Anne on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:27:13 PM EST
    in anger, or "heat of the moment," I think we all probably have the potential to say things we regret, and we'd be likely to do it not so much because we believed what we were saying, but because of the desire to hurt someone with the verbal weapon most likely to draw emotional blood.

    Doesn't make it right, but we all know it happens.


    Maybe (none / 0) (#9)
    by jbindc on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:29:46 PM EST
    But I've been spitting mad at people before and it would never occur to me to use a gay slur towards them or to call someone the n-word.

    And this was a fan, right?  Do you think he knew that this slur was going to be the verbal weapon most likely to draw emotional blood?  Seems that would be more the case with someone he knew, rather than a stranger....


    honestly (none / 0) (#16)
    by CST on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:37:11 PM EST
    and this may be prejudiced of me to even say this - but I think it's because you're female.

    In my experience, men in general throw gay slurs around a lot more.  It becomes almost a part of the culture.

    That's not an excuse, but it could be why it doesn't "roll off your toungue" so to speak, but it might roll off his.


    "but it might roll off his", (5.00 / 0) (#36)
    by KeysDan on Tue May 24, 2011 at 04:56:26 PM EST
    yes, it might.  And, did.  The fine should have been coupled with "community service" in an School anti-Bully program, or spend a little time on a gay teen suicide hot line.  That throwing around of gay slurs culture can be devastating for a young gay male, made all the more so when heard from a sports star.

    Only if this becomes a habit (none / 0) (#39)
    by brodie on Tue May 24, 2011 at 05:29:22 PM EST
    for Joaquim Noah would I recommend something like that.  

    For this first offense, a fine is probably enough, along with all the negative publicity and distraction for him and the team, to ensure that someone with Noah's background and generally good character is going to learn to at least watch his public excited utterances.

    Frankly, I think this is a macho-frat boy pro sports world thing that is part of the locker room juvenile mentality of too many players, and good people like Noah probably is normally just pick it up by osmosis in long-term exposure to that culture and using a slur like that becomes almost reflexive.

    If I were Stern, I'd want to consider maybe a new league program, starting next pre-season, to educate players and coaches about unacceptable language and attitudes.


    This "macho-frat boy" sports world (none / 0) (#46)
    by KeysDan on Tue May 24, 2011 at 06:11:14 PM EST
    is precisely where it should not be. The gay slur was the first thing out of his mouth, prefaced only with the F word  for use in the heat of the moment to an offending/offensive fan.  From an idolized sports star, locker room talk or boys will be boys,  if that is what is being accepted, should not be an explanation or an excuse.  Apparently, others agree to the extent of a $50,000 fine.  I would rather, since this not a habit, see community service in lieu of a fine.  

    Again, I think this is best (none / 0) (#47)
    by brodie on Tue May 24, 2011 at 06:50:28 PM EST
    handled more aggressively at the league and club level in teaching players about behavior and language, especially as cameras and mics are increasingly so ubiquitous on the NBA court and what used to not get picked up now makes the sports headlines.

    I also feel somewhat for the players since, while very handsomely compensated, they have to perform hard physical work while some idiot sitting a few feet away has the freedom to mouth off about the performance.  How many of us would have sufficient self-discipline to consistently refrain from responding?  

    And what if Noah was only responding in kind -- using an identical or similar slur to what the fan hurled at him?  I just don't think it's wise for the league to go too far here in issuing draconian punishment on a first offense.  Plenty of rough language gets used by players and coaches, and fans, on the court or playing field all the time.  And all the more so probably during the playoffs.  

    Noah just got caught reflexively repeating something he'd often heard but likely hadn't thought about. I'm inclined to think that's what happened anyway -- presumption of innocence I suppose -- and that he's basically someone not much in need of a severe re-education camp penalty.


    Professional sports are not (none / 0) (#49)
    by KeysDan on Tue May 24, 2011 at 08:07:21 PM EST
    played to an empty house--they play to a variety of fans and of differing loyalties.--and they are not always gracious in their criticisms.  It is part of the sport not to let a fan rile and distract.  Not sure presumption of innocence is applicable in this case, we know what he said and he apologized afterward and was judged  by the NBA to warrant a fine.   My guess is that Noah is familiar with the word and selected it as the  best put-down and pejorative retort he could come up with.    Learning about how his words can be damaging to another human being through hands-on experiences is not a severe re-educaton penalty, it is developing sensibilities and sensitivities about human behavior that are sorely lacking.  

    No, as I thought I made clear, (none / 0) (#51)
    by brodie on Tue May 24, 2011 at 09:00:13 PM EST
    I wasn't defending what he said nor did I presume innocence in the traditional broader not-guilty sense, but only in the narrower sense of thinking, given his background and the way he quickly apologized and the words he used to apologize, that Noah probably didn't hold to anti-gay views normally.  

    It was a word, a slur, that was uttered, no doubt about it, but it wasn't from the head or heart but from rote mechanical repetition, and so I suggest the full mens rea requirement here has not been met, at least not enough to warrant further punishment beyond 50 g's and the public embarrassment he's already endured.

    If he had failed to offer a quick apology, or had given one of those classic non-apology apologies we're all so familiar with from the political world, I'd feel differently about lowering the boom on him further with the re-education camp.  But since he seems sincere and strikes me as a decent if still somewhat immature fellow (but who isn't at his age), I'm inclined not to go all zero tolerance punishment crazy on this guy for this first infraction.


    I don't know - do you think male sports (none / 0) (#22)
    by Anne on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:42:42 PM EST
    fans are more or less likely to be offended by having their "manhood" questioned?  And yes, I realize that the "macho" sports fan is a stereotype.

    I venture to guess that a lot of people have had insults hurled at them ("fat," "ugly," "retarded," "stupid") by strangers who didn't necessarily "have anything against" their target, don't you think?

    People use those kinds of words to hurt, and whether you or anyone has ever spoken them in anger or for entertainment doesn't mean there isn't something that could trigger them; I think how hurt one is has a lot to do with one's willingness to hurt back.  I get that Noah didn't know this fan, but whatever he was shouting and taunting him with obviously hit its mark.


    I agree, jb (none / 0) (#28)
    by Zorba on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:48:36 PM EST
    I can get incredibly angry at someone, I can certainly throw the "a**hole" word around a lot (although never within the person's hearing, just muttered to myself) but I have never used a slur about someone's race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion.  Maybe it's more of a male thing, as CST suggested, but I have never, ever heard Mr. Zorba use such slurs, either.

    Never Called the Wife a B or a C ? (none / 0) (#29)
    by ScottW714 on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:57:19 PM EST
    Please, we all have tossed out the B word and sometimes deserving.  

    But this is a stranger, and I know for a fact I have never yelled at a stranger any sort of insult, much less a slur.  But then again, I never played pro ball on TNT for the Bulls in the Playoffs.


    Have you remained married to any (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by oculus on Tue May 24, 2011 at 04:10:38 PM EST
    spouse you addressed with those terms?

    Mr. Zorba has never, (none / 0) (#33)
    by Zorba on Tue May 24, 2011 at 04:16:17 PM EST
    ever called me the B or C word (and it's not like I haven't provoked him on more than one occasion, just as he has provoked me- it happens in marriages).  

    Did you see Charles Barkley's... (none / 0) (#8)
    by Tony on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:28:41 PM EST
    comments last week about gay teammates?  I love that guy.

    Yep (none / 0) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:31:26 PM EST
    Barkley's great.

    10-15 years ago, (none / 0) (#44)
    by brodie on Tue May 24, 2011 at 05:42:48 PM EST
    Barkley would have said something stupid, neanderthal and inflammatory.

    At some point though in the past decade he's wised up -- maybe it was a simple matter of getting all the stupid out of his system early on, or that he was tired of being publicly embarrassed and of having to constantly defend his remarks, or that he figgered he'd better stop the stupid if he ever wanted to run for public office, as he's threatened to do more than once.  

    Whatever the reason, the guy now sounds like a reasonable and even likable dude.  Was it the drinking?  Did he stop the heavy drinking and constant clubbing?


    Did Noah actually graduate from Florida? (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:31:55 PM EST
    "I don't mean no disrespect to anybody."

    Would he have been fined for "f*ck"?  

    Is the taunter gay?

    Don't know if he finished his degree (none / 0) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:35:28 PM EST
    I would assume no, given that he left after his junior year and his been all basketball all the time since then.

    No on the fine for f*ck.

    The slur is an all around sports slur frankly. It gets said a lot.  Was the taunter gay? I doubt it.


    Big enough fine to sting (none / 0) (#18)
    by andgarden on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:38:18 PM EST
    I took a few minutes to work through this in my mind, and I actually don't have a problem with the policy. There are many employers that would properly just fire you for publicly embarrassing them in this way.

    No brainer (none / 0) (#19)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:40:06 PM EST
    Fine could have been more frankly.

    I think the context is important (none / 0) (#23)
    by andgarden on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:43:13 PM EST
    because I do have a lurking concern about increasing the power of employers to sanction the employees for speech made outside of the context of (and not incompatible with) their jobs.

    Understood (none / 0) (#26)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:45:30 PM EST
    this is one where context is not a defense.

    Absolutely not (none / 0) (#27)
    by andgarden on Tue May 24, 2011 at 03:47:12 PM EST
    I suspect that having this happen every so often (but not too often) could have a social impact. And that's a good thing.

    Frank Deford had an interesting commentary (none / 0) (#30)
    by ruffian on Tue May 24, 2011 at 04:09:58 PM EST
    on NPR last week in wake of the coming out of the NBA official. To paraphrase, I hope correctly, he says it would help make players more willing to come out if fans in the stands would informally sanction each other for yelling slurs at the players. I think that same philosophy would help this situation too.

    That is not an excuse for a player of course, but it seems to me sports fans get more obnoxious every year. If someone in the stands yelled 'you f***' at a player, whether he was gay or not, what would the fans around him do?

    A loudly obnoxious fellow at the Q (none / 0) (#37)
    by oculus on Tue May 24, 2011 at 05:18:23 PM EST
    at a long ago Pads game kept shouting "sh*t."  The usher told him not to as there were families present.  Next time the guy yelled it he followed up with "sorry families."  No, he didn't get to see the end of the game.

    Sounds kinda quaint, (none / 0) (#41)
    by brodie on Tue May 24, 2011 at 05:36:09 PM EST
    compared to what I've heard at the occasional live NBA arena, and more often on the teevee -- fans, angry at a ref's call usually, shouting "Bulls**t!" in unison.  Sometimes the live tv or cable forgets to tune down the crowd mic so it's heard quite clearly at home.

    I don't recall hearing such things when I attended numerous sporting events in the 60s and 70s, even into the 80s.

    Happens at the college sports level now, too.

    Maybe it's different with MLB, or baseball in certain parks only.  


    This was sometime b/4 2004 when (none / 0) (#42)
    by oculus on Tue May 24, 2011 at 05:38:06 PM EST
    Petco Park opened.

    True in college basketball and football (none / 0) (#48)
    by ruffian on Tue May 24, 2011 at 07:22:18 PM EST
    games I have attended recently too. I feel old fashioned, but I was raised to be a good sport.

    Not Sure if That's Universal (none / 0) (#54)
    by ScottW714 on Wed May 25, 2011 at 10:32:29 AM EST
    But no beer after the 7th inning for Astros or after the 3rd quarter for the Texans.  Thought those were league rules, but not sure.

    Now when I was in Milwaukee, there used to be a section in the outfield in which you could bring your own booze, cooler, you name it, chaos.  Tickets were a dollar or two and only the truly belligerent or cheap wondered into that area and us underagers of course.  To be an outfield for the opposing team was hell.


    Obviously (none / 0) (#45)
    by lilburro on Tue May 24, 2011 at 05:52:58 PM EST
    players don't suddenly learn to call each other gay slurs once they enter the NBA.  Its part of athletic culture everywhere, including fancy-schmancy liberal art schools, to call players and fans those names when you desire to insult someone.  I'm not so much worried about players in the NBA or other pro leagues now coming out as I am high school and middle school athletes feeling safe to come out if they so desire.  I'm glad the NBA is taking action but if they want to promote an environment safe for gay athletes they need to act a bit more big picture.  There are plenty of people who will think the NBA is overreacting and unless they implement a wide anti-discrimination, GLBT-friendly policy, it will always seem that way.  Cos it's not a problem limited to 2 individuals, it's a whole culture.  Training players to be smarter about saying f****t to each other is different than training them not to do it.

    If the military can handle it, athletes sure as hell should be able to.

    the man caught in ethnic slurs (none / 0) (#52)
    by diogenes on Tue May 24, 2011 at 11:17:50 PM EST
    Let he who has never uttered a derogatory ethnic term cast the first stone.

    Apologies in advance (none / 0) (#53)
    by Nemi on Wed May 25, 2011 at 06:16:56 AM EST
    if this is toot (too ot) but it is amusing: Italian minister slams Ikea's gay ad
    A top Italian official on Saturday called an Ikea advertisement with two gay men holding hands "in bad taste", invoking the ire of opposition parties and rights groups.
    Ikea couldn't have paid their way to this much - positive as it turned out! - advertising. ;)

    Like BTD, I like Noah... (none / 0) (#55)
    by ks on Wed May 25, 2011 at 12:02:12 PM EST
    ...though he's not my favorite player.  As a player, he's wonderful odd.  he can't shoot a lick but he's a great passer and rebounder.  He plays with a manic energy but is always under control.  Overall, he has a great feel for the game.  

    As to what's being discussed here, Noah made a mistake and owned up to it.  Frankly, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often.  Not the slur but the fan vs. player blow up especially in basketball where the fans sit right on top of the players with no barriers.  I've been to many college and pro sporting events and the verbal abuse "respectable family people" and others toss at athletes is amazing.  I'm talking about the kind of things that would've immediately led to a fight if said in the street.

    It hasn't gotten much better even with the "no alcohol after..." rules because in the "ESPN era", the "fan feeback" is all encompassing. You can have some loudmouth on Sports Nation question your "courage" if you miss a shot or some lame blogger at Deadspin drag your personal life through the mud and a lot of sports forums are notorious cesspools filled with racist, sexist trash talk.