Fan banned for allegedly making racist remarks to Mutombo

Monday, October 30th 2006, 8:05 pm
By: News On 6

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) The NBA and Orlando Magic on Monday banned for the season the fan whose alleged racial slur incited Houston Rockets centre Dikembe Mutombo at a pre-season game last week.

Season-ticket holder Hooman Hamzehloui allegedly called Mutombo a "monkey" Thursday while the Rockets were playing the Magic. Mutombo, a native of Zaire, which is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo, 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.

Mutombo, who said after the game he would go into the stands next time even if he got fined for it, told Houston television station KRIV on Monday that he has already forgiven Hamzehloui.

"I will not say that I am happy about it," Mutombo said about the NBA's decision to ban Hamzehloui. "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."

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

Hamzehloui sent Mutombo a letter of apology obtained by The Associated Press. In it, he promised $5,000 to the charity of Mutombo's choice and vowed not to attend any games until the 7’2” centre gave his blessing.

"I am by no means a racist, and if you only knew me better you would never begin to have those thoughts," Hamzehloui wrote. "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."'

Hamzehloui asked to meet with Mutombo to apologize in person.

Mutombo told KRIV that Hamzehloui's promise to make a charitable donation "meant a lot" to him but a personal apology was not necessary.

"I thoroughly respect you as a player and as a human being and my only motivation when I have my fun at the games is to 'get under the player's skin' no matter what color that skin happens to be," he wrote.

A message was left seeking comment from Hamzehloui late Monday afternoon.