I was thrilled to engage in a passionate discussion of sports politics and the Los Angeles Lakers at the barbershop last week.

The conversation focused primarily on the aftermath of Kobe Bryant’s verbal mishap with a referee whom he felt had made a bad call. We questioned whether or not it was necessary for him to be fined or have to apologize for using a gay slur on international television.

As I sat listening to the opposing sides, I wondered why there wasn’t a discussion about what actually happened on the court. When would anyone call attention to effects of the hateful remark? Did it even matter to Black men that he had offended a large portion of the Black community?

When Bryant shouted “f—ing faggot” at a referee last week, my whole body went into shock. I was stunned that he would so easily and clearly bark an epithet which has an entire historical backdrop in hate. After the initial shock wore off a few days later, I was angry.

I was angry at Bryant for adding his name to the list of Black male entertainers who had used inappropriate and hateful words in a public space.

Though many in the Black community have argued that Bryant isn’t homophobic and that the power within the word “faggot” only exists when the person it is directed toward is clearly gay, the long-lasting effects of hate language are certainly detrimental to our boys and girls.

Bryant’s power as the most notable athlete in the NBA automatically makes him a role model for many young Black men. His actions are closely watched and emulated by the same Black babies who adorn themselves with his Lakers jersey and support the products that he endorses. What is being taught to young Black men, particularly, is that the use of anti-gay language is OK as long as the intention isn’t to be directly homophobic.

Further, Bryant’s use of the word “faggot,” combined with his 2003 sexual assault case, shines light on the system of American patriarchy which allows female subordination and homophobia to comfortably exist. Patriarchy is fed by our overlooking Bryant’s language so that we can comfortably sit back as he leads the Lakers closer to another NBA championship.

While it was a seemingly supportive gesture to fine him, the impact of his use of hate language cannot be dissolved for $100,000 or a lifeless apology to GLAAD.

Many cases surrounding the gay community have recently made national headlines at the hands of Black men.

Isaiah Washington has found it hard to find film or television roles complimentary to “Grey’s Anatomy,” the show that he was fired from in 2006 for directing a homophobic remark at co-star T.R. Knight.

Last week, Rev. Jesse Jackson’s longtime assistant, Tommy R. Bennett, filed a wrongful termination and discrimination case against him. He alleges that Jackson terminated his employment because he was gay.

Coupled with Bryant’s use of hate language, Black male public figures seem to be making the biggest waves in homophobic activity, and it’s uncomfortable.

It is disheartening to see those whom we admire continue to put lashes across the backs of other marginalized groups, but even more disturbing to witness many Black men and women forgive Bryant without challenging his homophobic tirade.

The Black community has had a long and sordid history with homophobia, stemming from many traditional pulpit sermons and public decisions. In 2008, 70 percent of Black Californians voted to overturn the California Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex marriage.

Although there are many supporters of gay marriage, including me, it is clear that Black America is highly divided on the issue of whether or not to take a stance against the defamation of gays or support those who choose to offend.

The real question at hand has nothing to do with his fine or apology, not when hate crimes are still reported from the gay community, not when some Black male public figures are re-victimizing a group of marginalized folk, and certainly not when teenagers are committing suicide all around the country because of teasing and homophobic slurs thrown their way on the playground.

A fine will never erase the effects of an unplanned homophobic slip-up on the part of a nationally celebrated Black male icon, even if the men at my barbershop say so.

James B. Golden, MPA is a Los Angeles-based music journalist. He has previously edited the Hip Hop Think Tank academic journal and Kapu-Sens Literary Magazine. Golden was a music columnist at Say It Loud!, the San Fernando Valley’s Black newspaper. He is the author of a Hip Hop poetry collection entitled “Sweet Potato Pie Underneath the Sun’s Broiler.”