Pacers center Roy Hibbert apologized after using a homophobic slang term during a televised news conference following Indiana's 91-77 victory over Miami in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday.
"I am apologizing for insensitive remarks made during the postgame press conference after our victory over Miami Saturday night," Hibbert said, in a statement released by the Pacers on Sunday. "They were disrespectful and offensive and not a reflection of my personal views. I used a slang term that is not appropriate in any setting, private or public, and the language I used definitely has no place in a public forum, especially over live television. I apologize to those who I have offended, to our fans and to the Pacers’ organization. I sincerely have deep regret over my choice of words last night."
Asked about his defense during a crucial fourth-quarter play that ended with LeBron James being called for an offensive foul and a technical foul, Hibbert explained that he was attempting to do a better job of helping Paul George defend the 2013 MVP.
"The momentum could have shifted right there if [James] got an easy dunk," Hibbert said. "There was what ‑‑ was it Game 3 here? I really felt that I let Paul down in terms of having his back when LeBron was scoring in the post or getting to the paint, because they stretched me out so much. No homo."
That two-word phrase was popularized by rappers who, according to Slate, used it to "rid [statements] of possible homosexual double-entendre" and, generally speaking, to "acknowledge and distance themselves" from homosexuals.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel told the Associated Press that he immediately addressed the comments with Hibbert.
"It's simple, I support him," Vogel said. "I know he's not that person and that it was a mistake. He knows he's wrong. I didn't have to tell him that and we all love and support him. Obviously, he made a great mistake. He feels horribly about it. I told him, basically, that we've got to move on from it.''
Athlete Ally, an organization that works to end homophobia, transphobia and anti-LGBT bullying in sports, issued a statement Sunday, asserting that Hibbert's words showed a "lack of awareness" and were "harmful to youth."
“We are disappointed by Hibbert's comments, as that kind of language is disrespectful, has no place in sports and is antithetical to the NBA’s policies," the organization's statement read. "As an official partner of the NBA and NBPA, Athlete Ally works closely with the league on delivering trainings and workshops to educate players about LGBT inclusion and respect. The league is undoubtedly a leader in this area, and Roy’s statement of apology clearly recognizes the harms of his comments. We are confident that the NBA will do its part to rectify the issue to the extent it can, comprehensively educate Hibbert, who seems genuinely apologetic, and make sure that these kinds of comments are soon a thing of the past."
It's unclear whether Hibbert will face a sanction from the NBA for his comment. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for using a gay slur that was caught on a national television broadcast in 2011.
In the league's official transcript of Hibbert's news conference, which was conducted jointly with George and streamed live on NBA.com, the words were replaced by "(Expletive)."
"I have no problem with openly gay men," Hibbert said at the time, according to the Journal Courier. "More power to them. We live in a day in age where people are more accepting as opposed to years ago. [Collins] and his family may have some adversity in the coming days and weeks, but I have no problem with it."
The NBA has long prided itself on tolerance towards minority groups.
“We have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family,” commissioner David Stern said in a statement after Collins' announcement. “Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue.”
It was a particularly eventful press conference for Hibbert, who also referred to media members as "m-----f------" in explaining his placement on this year's Defensive Player of the Year voting.
Hibbert finished with 24 points (on 11-for-20 shooting) and 11 rebounds in 42 minutes.
The Heat and Pacers are now tied at three games apiece. Game 7 is Monday in Miami.