UPDATE: The NBA has fined Noah $50,000. The league did not release a statement.
During the Chicago Bulls' 96-85 playoff loss to the Miami Heat, Bulls center Joakim Noah was seen shouting an anti-gay slur over his shoulder to someone (probably a fan) seated behind the team's bench.
The exchange occurred after Noah was whistled for his second foul with more than six minutes remaining in the first quarter. Noah was whistled for an over the back call after attempting to tap in a Carlos Boozer miss. Noah came from behind Heat forward LeBron James to tap the ball near the cylinder and made contact with his body. After briefly arguing the call, Noah headed straight for the Bulls bench and began barking at someone seated behind him and to his right.
Noah then appeared to yell a string of profanities and finished with what appears to be the exact phrase that Bryant was fined for using. The only difference: Noah was not addressing one of the officials.
You can it watch for yourself here:
Noah did apologize for the incident, telling reporters after the game, "I apologize. 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."
We issued a statement about the incident this morning.
"Last month the NBA sent an important message about how such slurs fuel a climate of intolerance and are unacceptable," said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. "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 clearly tell all players that there is no place in the game for anti-gay words and attitudes."
We've been speaking with our contacts at the NBA this morning, who are taking this situation extremely seriously. The NBA has already agreed to work with us on developing ways to effectively reach both players and fans with its inclusive message – and agrees that this needs to be worked on right away. We've also reached out to the Bulls, and look forward to speaking with them this afternoon.
This incident is certainly a troubling one, especially having occurred so closely to Kobe Bryant's outburst - but we want to make sure the amazing steps the NBA and its representatives are taking to support LGBT equality don't get lost. The PSA that Grant Hill and Jared Dudley released, against using anti-gay language, was filmed BEFORE the Bryant incident. Charles Barkley has been saying the sport is ready for an out athlete. And two-time MVP Steve Nash just released a video with HRC calling for marriage equality in New York - with the full support of the NBA, which is sharing his message with its fans.
We are at a different place in time here than we were even a year or two ago. The NBA is actively promoting a message of acceptance and inclusion - not because incidents like these are bad PR, but because that's simply what the game stands for.