The NBA announced Sunday that Roy Hibbert has been fined $75,000 for using "inappropriate and vulgar language" during a televised post-game press conference following Indiana's 91-77 victory over Miami in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday.
Hibbert used a homophobic slang term in describing his defense on Heat forward LeBron James and used a profanity in reference to media members as he responded to a question about his placement on this year's Defensive Player of the Year voting. The Pacers' center issued an apology for his comments earlier Sunday.
"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. "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."
NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement that the comments warranted a sanction, despite Hibbert's remorse.
"While Roy has issued an apology, which is no doubt sincere, a fine is necessary to reinforce that such offensive comments will not be tolerated by the NBA," Stern said.
Asked about his defense during a crucial fourth-quarter play that ended with 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.
Asked about why he finished 10th in this year's Defensive Player of the Year voting, Hibbert responded that the media members who vote for the award weren't paying sufficient attention to his small-market team.
"You know what, because y'all m-----f------ don't watch us play throughout the year, to tell you the truth," Hibbert said. "That's fine. I'm going to be real with you. And I don't care if I get fined. You know what, we play, we're not on TV all the time. Reporters are the ones that are voting. And it is what it is. If I don't make it, that's fine. I'm still going to do what I have to do."
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."
In April, Wizards free-agent center Jason Collins became the first active openly gay male athlete in the four major American sports leagues by revealing his sexuality in an essay for Sports Illustrated.
"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,” 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.”
Hibbert finished with 24 points (on 11-for-20 shooting) and 11 rebounds in Game 6.