NBA Referee Bill Kennedy Reveals He Is Gay After Rajon Rondo's Alleged Slur

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 14, 2015

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 12: Referee Bill Kennedy stands on the court during a game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics on April 12, 2015 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Dow/Getty Images

NBA referee Bill Kennedy revealed he is gay in a report published Monday by Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski (Warning: NSFW language).

According to Kennedy, Sacramento Kings point guard Rajon Rondo leveled an anti-gay slur after being ejected from the team's December 3 game in Mexico City against the Boston Celtics.

Kennedy also spoke about his decision to come out publicly, per Wojnarowski: "I am proud to be an NBA referee, and I am proud to be a gay man. 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."

Rondo was suspended one game for his conduct and refusal to leave the court immediately after Kennedy, 49, assessed him consecutive technical fouls in the aforementioned contest. Other game officials witnessed Rondo's unsavory antics.

The NBA conducted an investigation on the incident involving Rondo and Kennedy; National Basketball Referee's Association general counsel Lee Seham provided Wojnarowski with the official report filed by Kennedy and his crew.

Ben Taylor, a referee who worked the game with Kennedy in which Rondo was ejected, mentioned part of what the mercurial floor general said, including, "You're a motherf--king f----t. ... You're a f--king f----t, Billy."

Rondo denied ever making the inflammatory remarks when pressed by league officials but declined to speak to the media following Kennedy's announcement. Upon hearing of the incident, Kings head coach George Karl noted that "Rondo's homophobic comments were 'out of character,' a practice distraction, [and] he was 'disappointed' to hear it," according to Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears.

Kings general manager Vlade Divac told reporters Rondo "said something that's unacceptable." Divac also reached out to Kennedy and personally apologized on behalf of the franchise. Divac said Rondo will also apologize to Kennedy personally.    

"Rajon's comment was disrespectful and offensive and we wholeheartedly disapprove of any language that discriminates or disparages others based on sexual orientation or anything else," the GM stated.

Rondo eventually apologized via his Twitter account:

Rajon Rondo @RajonRondo

My actions during the game were out of frustration and emotion, period!

Rajon Rondo @RajonRondo

They absolutely do not reflect my feelings toward the LGBT community. I did not mean to offend or disrespect anyone.

"Rajon's comment is not reflective of the culture of the Sacramento Kings organization or the world we want to live in," Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said in a statement, per KNBR.com's Logan Murdock. "He's apologized and has been suspended by the NBA. On behalf of the team, I apologize to Bill Kennedy for any harm this may have caused."

Rondo issued a more formal apology to Kennedy on Tuesday, per Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report: 

Sean Highkin @highkin

Statement from Rajon Rondo about yesterday’s non-apology https://t.co/xLlVy9U6vP

While the world was not privy to Kennedy's sexual orientation at the time of the outburst, the retrospective context makes Rondo's alleged tirade all the more repugnant.

"The NBA referees stand by Bill Kennedy for the job he does and who he is. We stand against bigotry in all its forms," Seham said, per Wojnarowski.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also stood by Kennedy, per a statement included in the report:

I wholeheartedly support Bill's decision to live his life proudly and openly. 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.

Former NBA player Jason Collins, who revealed he is gay in 2013, expressed support for Kennedy:

Jason Collins @jasoncollins98

So proud of #BillKennedy for sharing his story and demonstrating true professionalism. Much #respect & #courage. https://t.co/gr27vxCcxb

In addition to an NBA tenure that spans almost two decades, work at an All-Star Game and five NBA Finals contests, Kennedy has also served as a referee on big stages elsewhere. He officiated at the 2012 Summer Olympics along with the 2010 FIBA World Championships.

Chicago Bulls All-Star Joakim Noah and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant weren't suspended for using gay slurs in recent years, though both were fined. The disciplinary action taken in Rondo's case ought to set a precedent and more strongly discourage such hate speech in the future.


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