The NBA has fined Roy Hibbert $75,000 after the Indiana Pacers center used a gay slur in one answer and a profanity in another during his news conference Saturday following Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The NBA responded less than 24 hours later, announcing Sunday in a release that Hibbert was fined for "using inappropriate and vulgar language." The fine was handed down after Hibbert issued an apology Sunday morning, saying in a statement that he sincerely has "deep regret over my choice of words last night."
"I am apologizing for insensitive remarks made during the postgame press conference after our victory over Miami Saturday night," Hibbert said in the 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."
Hibbert had drawn a key charge on James in Indiana's 91-77 victory against Miami on Saturday and lamented not providing enough help to teammate Paul George on James in Game 3.
Although he acknowledged Hibbert's apology, NBA commissioner David Stern said it was "necessary" to penalize the star center.
"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.
Earlier Sunday morning, Hibbert reached out to Jason Collins via Twitter. Collins made headlines in April when he became the first active male pro athlete in a major American sport to come out publicly as gay.
"Hey can I get a follow," Hibbert's tweet read. "Would like to discuss something's with you."
Athlete Ally, an activist organization working to end homophobia in sports, addressed Hibbert's comments in a statement released Sunday.
"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 statement said. "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 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."
During Saturday's late-night news conference, Hibbert also cursed in reference to the media when asked why he finished so low in voting for Defensive Player of the Year.
"Y'all m------------- don't watch us play throughout the year to tell you the truth," Hibbert said. "So that's fine. I'm going to be real with you, and I don't care if I get fined. We play and we're not on TV all of the time and reporters are the ones that are voting and it is what it is. And I don't make it, that's fine. I'm still going to do what I have to do."
Before departing for Miami, where Game 7 will be played Monday night, Pacers coach Frank Vogel told reporters he had already spoken with Hibbert and described the 2012 All-Star center as "contrite." Players were not available Sunday.
With the series tied at 3 and a trip to the NBA Finals at stake Monday, distractions are the last thing this young Pacers squad needs as it tries to prevent the Heat from making what many expected to be a stroll into their third straight NBA Finals. The Pacers have appeared in the Finals only once, in 2000, when they lost in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers.
So Vogel did what he could to calm down the brewing controversy while still backing the big man, who has given Indiana this chance by routinely beating up the defending NBA champions inside.
"It's simple. I support him. I know he's not that person and that it was a mistake," Vogel said. "He knows he's wrong. I didn't have to tell him that and we all love and support him."
The 7-foot-2 Hibbert has averaged 22.8 points and 10.8 rebounds in the series, up from 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds in the regular season.
But now he's become the center of attention for a different reason.
"Obviously, he made a great mistake. He feels horribly about it," Vogel said. "I told him, basically, that we've got to move on from it."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.