While Kobe Bryant is busy issuing tepid apologies and fighting his $100,000 fine after hurling a gay slur at a referee mid-game, openly gay former NBA player John Amaechi has penned a moving open letter to Bryant in the New York Times that seriously puts the Lakers star in his place.
Amaechi, who left the N.B.A. in 2003 and penned an autobiography, evenhandedly calls out Bryant as part of a larger problem and not "some vicious homophobe." A few highlights below:
"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.
Many people balk when L.G.B.T. people, even black ones, suggest that the power and vitriol behind another awful slur — the N-word — is no different from the word used by Kobe. I make no attempt at an analogy between the historical civil rights struggle for blacks in the United States with the current human rights struggle for L.G.B.T. people, but I can say that I am frequently called both, and the indignation, anger and at times resignation that course through my body are no greater or less for either. I know with both words the intent is to let me know that no matter how big, how accomplished, philanthropic or wise I may become, to them I am not even human.
I started playing basketball at age 17 in the United Kingdom. I went from the fat child who hid in the corner of the library to starting in the N.B.A. six years later. Despite my efforts, I couldn’t hold a candle to Kobe, but even with my limited prominence, I always knew two things: I was always under scrutiny and what I did and said mattered more because of that.
Kobe, stop fighting the fine. You spoke ill-advised words that shot out like bullets, and if the e-mails I received from straight and gay young people and sports fans in Los Angeles alone are anything to go by, you did serious damage with your outburst.
Click through to the Times for the full piece, one of the most on-point discussions of both homophobic slurs and the responsibilities of public figures I've seen in quite a while.