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Monday, October 30, 2006
Updated: October 31, 12:10 PM ET
Heckler banned for season after alleged racial slur

ESPN.com news services

The NBA and the Orlando Magic on Monday banned for the season the fan whose alleged racial slur incited Houston Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo at a preseason game last week.

Stein's take
 Marc Stein
We're quick to bash the NBA when it changes the ball without anyone clamoring for a new one. We're hardly alone in questioning the league's obsession with shortening short lengths, outlawing tights and instituting multiple new restrictions on wristbands.

This, though, was textbook. This is how you deal with racial abuse.

To read more of Marc Stein on the NBA's reaction, click here. Insider

Season-ticket holder Hooman Hamzehloui allegedly called Mutombo a "monkey" Thursday in the third quarter of the Rockets-Magic game. Mutombo yelled back at Hamzehloui and gestured from the court.

Hamzehloui was ejected from the game. The league said Hamzehloui is also barred from attending games at any NBA arena this season. Orlando said it will refund his season-ticket payment.

"I will not say that I am happy about it," Mutombo told Fox 26 in Houston. "It is out of my hands. I have done my job. I have forgiven him. Whatever the commissioner and the league does, that's not my area."

According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel, Hamzehloui sent the Rockets center a letter of apology. Hamzehloui was contacted late Sunday by the newspaper and said he didn't know "using the word 'monkey' was bad."

"I would like to take a moment of your time to offer a complete and unconditional apology for my poor behavior, and in particular, my poor choice of words last Thursday night while attending the Houston-Orlando basketball game," the letter reads.

"I am by no means a racist, and if you only knew me better you would never begin to have those thoughts. What I am guilty of is poor judgment in the use of words while doing what I do to many of the visiting team's players, 'heckle them.'"

Mutombo said after the game he would go into the stands next time even if he got fined for it.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank said no action was taken against Mutombo and the matter was closed.

Hamzehloui also wrote that he would not attend another Magic game until Mutombo gives the team his approval and that he would donate $5,000 to a charity of Mutombo's choice.

Hamzehloui also wrote that he wished to apologize in person.

"That meant a lot to me," Mutombo told Fox 26 of the apology letter, but added that Hamzehloui's offer to personally apologize was not necessary. "I don't need that."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.