MIAMI — Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah apologized for yelling an insulting remark, believed to be a gay slur, at a spectator in Miami during his team’s NBA playoff loss on Sunday night.
Television cameras showed Noah appearing to say “faggot” after sitting down on the bench just 5:34 into the opening quarter of Miami’s 96-85 triumph, which gave the Heat a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference best-of-seven final.
“I apologize,” Noah said. “The fan said something to me that I thought was disrespectful and I got caught up in the moment and I said some things that I shouldn’t have said.
“I was frustrated and I don’t mean no disrespect to anybody. I just got caught up.”
Noah, who met Monday with NBA officials, said he expects to be fined for the comment to a taunting Heat supporter.
“The fan said something that was disrespectful towards me and I went back at him,” Noah said.
“I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m not like that. I’m an open-minded guy. I said the wrong thing and I’m going to pay the consequences – deal with the consequences – like a man.
“I don’t want to be a distraction to the team right now.”
Noah also said Monday that he would learn from his mistakes and his frustration did not excuse his remark.
“I’ll remember,” Noah said. “I’ll remember it for a long time.”
Bulls forward Luol Deng of Britain supported Noah, saying the fan made his own disrespectful comments to the Bulls’ bench.
“It wasn’t just one time or two times,” Deng said. “He just kept going and it became really annoying. (Noah) just lost his temper.”
Los Angeles Lakers playmaker Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 by the league for making a similar remark about referee Ben Adams during a game last month.
NBA commissioner David Stern said last month that “such a distasteful term should never be tolerated” and added “insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society.”
On Monday, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) issued a statement on its website and said organisation officials had been in touch with the NBA and the league was “taking this situation extremely seriously.”
“Last month the NBA sent an important message about how such slurs fuel a climate of intolerance and are unacceptable,” GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios said.
“These anti-gay remarks, coming so soon after, demonstrate how much needs to be done.
“Noah’s apology is a start. We are confident that the NBA will now take disciplinary measures and hasten its work with us to tell all players that there is no place for anti-gay words and attitudes in the game.”
During the US telecast of the Bulls-Heat game, a public service announcement aired promoting an end to such remarks, with NBA players notably speaking out against using the word “gay” in a negative manner.
Noah’s incident came a week after Phoenix Suns president and chief executive Rick Welts revealed that he is gay and on the same day Suns guard Steve Nash of Canada appeared in a video message supporting same-sex marriage by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a group pushing to legalize such unions in New York.
“At a time when the NBA and a growing number of pro-athletes are publicly standing up for equality, it’s too bad Mr. Noah worked against their efforts last night,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said. “That said, we’re pleased he quickly realized the error of his ways and apologized.”