When we talk about the casual homophobia that exists in the world of sports, this is exactly the result we want to see. Before the ref incident, it’s very possible Kobe Bryant had never really thought about the way his LGBT fans would feel if, in the heat of the moment, the worst insult he could think of was an anti-gay slur.
The fine sent a very powerful message to fans that the league was taking this matter seriously, and that’s important. But what’s more important than whatever disciplinary actions were taken was the conversation that followed. Kobe’s slur became the talk of the sports world for more than a week. Athletes and fans alike – including Kobe – were thinking and talking about language and LGBT inclusion in a way they maybe never had before.
This is exactly the message we stressed to the NBA’s rookie classes of 2011 and 2012 when GLAAD and Athlete Ally had the chance to address them last year. It’s exactly the message that GLAAD and You Can Play sent to the Toronto Blue Jays and Yunel Escobar when he wrote an anti-gay slur on his eye-black. And it’s exactly the message that all three of our organizations are currently in the process of speaking to the other leagues about sharing with their players.