SBD/April 14, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Kobe Bryant Risks Tarnishing His Brand After Anti-Gay Slur To Referee

Bryant released statement, went on radio to apologize for Tuesday's incident
The NBA fined Lakers G Kobe Bryant $100,000 for an anti-gay slur toward a referee Tuesday night, and "any perception that he is homophobic, especially in Los Angeles, would chip away at his newly strengthened cornerstone while adding to the smoldering wreckage of the days when he was scorned for his recklessness off the court and his selfishness on it," according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. Because Bryant's legacy has "been filled with so many bumps and bruises, that legacy remains as fragile as his knees." His "taut personality will never allow him to spend his post-basketball career like the charismatic and influential" Magic Johnson. But if Bryant "wants to maintain his own brand of magic, he needs to show folks that the screaming fool on Tuesday night was indeed not him." Cyd Zeigler, co-Founder of gay sports website, said that he "heard from many folks Wednesday who were outraged by the Bryant remark and apparent lack of remorse." Zeigler: "Los Angeles is one of the gayest cities in America, and the message I'm getting from many is that they are no longer Kobe Bryant fans" (L.A. TIMES, 4/14).

DAMAGE CONTROL: Bryant yesterday issued a statement apologizing for saying the slur, then appeared on ESPN Radio 710 L.A.'s "The Mason & Ireland Show" to further apologize for the incident. Bryant said, "It's important for me to talk about that issue because it's okay to be who you are. I don't want this issue to be a part of something or to magnify something that shouldn't be." He added he plans to speak to gay and lesbian groups because it is the responsibility of "athletes and as those who are in the spotlight to bring awareness to certain issues." Bryant: "Where this stems from, it stems from a negative light. But it's our responsibility to turn it into a positive and try to raise as much awareness as we possibly can to say that is not okay. ... I will be saying something to them, saying plenty to them, and hopefully we can do some things to try to prohibit violence and prohibit hate crimes and things of that nature because it's extremely important to do that" (ESPN Radio 710 L.A., 4/13). Bryant's initial apology noted his comment to the referee "should not be taken literally." He added, "The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone." Bryant later said, "The concern that I have is for those that follow what I say, and are inspired by how I play, or look to me as a role model … they're not to take what was said as something that is a message of hate or a license to degrade or embarrass or tease" (L.A. TIMES, 4/14).
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