NEW YORK (AP) — An NBA spokesman says the league is investigating Kobe Bryant's apparent use of a derogatory gay term about a referee in the Lakers' game on Tuesday.
Video replays appear to show Bryant using the slur when he couldn't get Bennie Adams' attention as he came to the bench after getting hit with a technical foul during the Lakers' 102-93 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Bryant punched his chair before taking a seat on the bench and threw a towel on the court near his feet in frustration after picking up his fourth foul in the third quarter. He got his 15th technical of the season for arguing the call. If he gets another technical foul in the season finale at Sacramento on Wednesday, an NBA-mandated, one-game suspension would be for the first game of next season.
"What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period," Bryant said in a statement issued through the Lakers on Wednesday. "The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone."
Gay-rights groups issued statements denouncing Bryant's actions.
"What a disgrace for Kobe Bryant to use such horribly offensive and distasteful language, especially when millions of people are watching," the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay-rights group, said.
Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said in a separate statement that slurs have no place on or off the court.
"Professional sports players need to set a better example for young people who use words like this on the playground and in our schools, creating a climate of intolerance and hostility," Barrios said. "The LA Lakers have a responsibility to educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable."