One of NBA’s top referees, Bill Kennedy, has come out as a gay man.
“I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man,” he told Yahoo Sports. “I am following in the footsteps of others who have self-identified in the hopes that will send a message to young men and women in sports that you must allow no one to make you feel ashamed of who you are.”
The announcement followed the December 3 suspension of Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo who shouted anti-gay slurs after being ejected from a game in Mexico City.
Kennedy ejected Rondo for technical fouls during a game against the Boston Celtics. Rondo not only failed to leave the court immediately, but began to stalk Kennedy and shout, “You’re a mother —— faggot….You’re a f—— faggot, Billy,” according to the official report used in an NBA investigation.
Rondo “aggressively pursued referee Bill Kennedy and had to be restrained by teammates and escorted off the floor by Sacramento team security,” a third official, Bennie Adams, said.
National Basketball Referee’s Association general counsel Lee Seham said that the NBA referees “stand by Bill Kennedy for the job he does and who he is. We stand against bigotry in all its forms.”
Though Rondo initially denied he made comments, he later admitted via Twitter he did and that they were “out of frustration and emotion” and that “they absolutely do not reflect my feelings toward the LGBT community. I did not mean to offend or disrespect anyone.”
After a week review, the NBA gave Rondo a one-game suspension without pay (coming to $86,300) for “directing a derogatory and offensive term toward a game official and not leaving the court in a timely manner upon his ejection.”
While Rondo is the third NBA player to be punished for anti-gay slurs, he is the first to be suspended. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was fined $50,000 in 2011 for shouting a slur to a fan and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for using an anti-gay slur toward a referee in the same season.
Kennedy is the second referee to come out in the past two years. Referee Violet Palmer announced she was gay in the summer of 2014.
“I wholeheartedly support Bill’s decision to live his life proudly and openly,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Throughout his 18-year career with the league, Bill has excelled as a referee because of his passion, dedication and courage. Those qualities will continue to serve him well both as a game official and as a positive influence for others. While our league has made great progress, our work continues to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity.”
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