Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah appears to have gotten off lighter than most expected Monday when he was fined $50,000 for yelling an anti-gay slur at a fan during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals series with Miami.
Most thought Noah would receive a fine on par with the one Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant received last month for aiming the same insensitive remark at a game official. But after meeting with NBA officials Monday, Noah received his fine and then issued an apology for his comment as he sat on the bench during the first quarter of the Bulls' loss to the Heat.
“Just losing the game was definitely tough,” Noah said to reporters. “I learn from my mistakes. I think that with the comment to the fan, I just want to apologize about that. I had just picked up my second foul. I was frustrated. He said something that was disrespectful towards me, and I lost my cool. I’m not ‑‑ people who know me know I'm an open‑minded guy. I’m not here to hurt anybody’s feelings. I’m just here to, you know, help win a basketball game.”
People have wondered why Noah received a lesser fine than Bryant when both used the same derogatory word during a game. But according to most reports, the determination seemed to be who it was said to.
Bryant said his from the bench after not agreeing with a referee’s call. Noah incorrectly reacted to the comments of a Miami fan who was being obnoxious by all accounts.
The mystery, however, still seems to be what the fan said to set the already emotional Noah off. Noah hasn’t been willing to say.
"I apologized for what I said. What I said wasn't right," Noah said to reporters Monday. "I don't want to disrespect anybody. That's not what I'm about. I just got caught up in something a fan said and went back at him, and I'm going to face the consequences like a man."
A problem that likely needs to be addressed by the NBA, but definitely won’t be is the proximity of the high-dollar fans to the team benches. You figure if the rumble in the Palace that took place between Indiana Pacers players and Detroit fans several years back didn’t change things then nothing will.
The best thing for all is to put this episode behind them and move on. It seems Noah still has the support of his teammates, who understand his frustration but don’t condone his actions.
"[Noah's] got to do a better job of controlling his emotions," Bulls forward Luol Deng said to ESPNChicago. "But at the same time, us as players, everyone is always watching us.
"And Jo kind of lost his temper, he shouldn't have, but that fan should have been out of the game. He should have been thrown out way before. He just kept going at him and we're in an emotional game like that, and things aren't going Jo's way, it's just human nature to just react. I know Jo and I know he didn't mean what he said at all."
(Photo: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)