LOS ANGELES - Kobe Bryant's homophobic outburst "perpetuates a culture of discrimination and hate" ... so says a gay rights group which has deemed last night's incident as "horribly offensive," the TMZ website is reporting.
Kobe appeared to have mouthed the words "f**king f**got" towards an NBA ref last night after he was hit with a technical foul.
TMZ spoke with the Human Rights Campaign -- who told us, "What a disgrace for Kobe Bryant to use such horribly offensive and distasteful language, especially when millions of people are watching."
The group adds, "Hopefully Mr. Bryant will recognize that as a person with such fame and influence, the use of such language not only offends millions of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] people around the world, but also perpetuates a culture of discrimination and hate that all of us, most notably Mr. Bryant, should be working to eradicate."
Bryant's outburst and sideline tantrum is being reviewed by NBA honchos.
NBA sources say league execs are taking a closer look at last night's game footage -- where Kobe is seen mouthing what looks very much like, "F**king fa**ot."
It's unclear what kind of punishment the league could bring down on Kobe ... but suspension or a fine is a dangerous possibility with the playoffs about to start.
Bryant has issued a statement about his homophobic outburst during last night's Lakers game -- essentially admitting to using the word "f**got" and explaining, “What I said last night should not be taken literally."
Kobe continues, "My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. "
He adds, "The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.”
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) issued the following statement about the incident:
"Discriminatory slurs have no place on or off the court," said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. "Professional sports players need to set a better example for young people who use words like this on the playground and in our schools, creating a climate of intolerance and hostility. The LA Lakers have a responsibility to educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable."
GLAAD has reached out to the L.A. Lakers and will provide updates on GLAADBlog.org as they become available.
Recently, GLAAD has worked with sports groups including the New York Yankees, the World Wrestling Federation (WWE) and the Hershey Bears to address issues of homophobia in sports. The Hershey Bears, top minor league affiliate of the Washington Capitals, told GLAAD this week the team would be taking steps to put a stop to anti-gay taunts from fans.