CHICAGO (CBS) -- The NBA on Monday fined Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah $50,000 for hurling profanity and a gay slur at a fan during the Bulls' Game 3 loss to the Miami Heat.
Noah had immediately apologized for the slur and said he expected a stiff financial penalty for his words.
"I got caught up. A fan said something," Noah said after Sunday's game. "I said something back. I apologize. I don't mean no disrespect to anybody."
As Noah sat on the bench he appeared to yell at a fan: "F-- you, f**got."
At 670 the score, sports pundits on Monday talked about how the term, along with the word "gay," is often used by players as an insult not necessarily referring to sexual orientation.
But one gay-rights advocate doesn't buy that argument.
"I don't think these players understand the full extent of the words they are saying," Jeremy Gottschalk of Equality Illinois says.
He says a sincere apology by players and firm action by managers is what ultimately helps drive home the point the term is hurtful and insulting.
"They've got millions of fans on TV and radio, and they have a huge platform, and they play a role in changing the conversation," Gottschalk says.
The Bulls have agreed to work with Equality Illinois on sensitivity.
Los Angeles' Lakers star Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for shouting a gay slur at a referee earlier in the season. And last week, Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts revealed he was gay, a rare acknowledgement for someone holding a prominent position in men's sports.
Also weighing in Monday was Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts, who is openly gay. She called Noah's slur hurtful but said she believes his apology is sincere.
"Slurs of anyone's sexual orientation are just as harmful and derogatory as insulting one's race, creed or ethnicity," Ricketts said in a written statement.
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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