Ten days after enduring a torrent of homophobic slurs from Kings guard Rajon Rondo, NBA referee Bill Kennedy has revealed he is gay, according to Yahoo! Sports.
“I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man,” Kennedy told Yahoo Sports on Sunday night. “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.”
On Dec. 3 in Mexico City, Kennedy ejected Rondo from a game between the Kings and the Celtics, prompting Rondo to stalk Kennedy around the court and shower him with offensive language.
In the game officials’ report used as part of the NBA’s investigation – which includes details provided to Yahoo Sports from National Basketball Referee’s Association general counsel Lee Seham – Kennedy and fellow referee Ben Taylor described Rondo’s post-ejection diatribe as including the statements: “You’re a mother——- f—-t. … You’re a f—— f—-t, Billy.”
Seham reported that a third official, Bennie Adams, outside of hearing distance, “affirmed that Rondo aggressively pursued referee Bill Kennedy and had to be restrained by teammates and escorted off the floor by Sacramento team security.”
There are two stories here, neither of them particularly complicated.
1. Kennedy is the second openly gay NBA referee after Violet Palmer, who came out publicly last year. This is Kennedy’s personal business, and it is wonderful that he feels comfortable enough to share it with a sports community sometimes perceived as unfriendly to LGBT people. Hopefully everyone around the NBA will accept him as a gay man and allow him to continue his career unaffected. Adam Silver has already released a statement fully supporting Kennedy.
“I wholeheartedly support Bill’s decision to live his life proudly and openly,” Silver told Yahoo Sports 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.”
2. Rondo’s behavior is absolutely appalling. Whether or not he was aware Kennedy was gay, he should obviously know better than to speak to someone like that. At this point, ignorance is no excuse for offensive language. Rondo is not some teenage rookie who doesn’t know how the world works and made a dumb mistake. He’s a grown man who must understand that this isn’t an appropriate way of speaking to someone, gay or straight. It’s bad enough when Kobe Bryant is caught saying “f—-g f—-t” on the bench, but it’s worse when Rondo is following a referee around the floor calling him that word to his face.
Rondo received a one-game suspension for the incident and probably deserved more.
Bill Kennedy, cheers to you. Rajon Rondo, you’ve got to be better.