After Being Called A ‘Faggot’ This NBA Ref Came Out To ‘Send A Message’ To Young Athletes

nba ref

Bill Kennedy, one of the NBA’s top referees, has revealed he is gay.

“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.”

Kennedy’s announcement comes in the wake of the NBA’s suspension of Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo, who was heard unleashing a torrent of anti-gay slurs following his ejection from a game on Dec. 3 in Mexico City.

Kennedy, 49, had ejected Rondo with “consecutive technical fouls in a Kings loss to the Boston Celtics, Rondo defied league protocol to immediately leave the court and began stalking Kennedy, who had retreated to a far sideline of the floor.”

That’s when “Rondo called Kennedy a faggot, and multiple people on the court heard the slurs.”

Rondo, according to Yahoo Sports, allegedly told Kennedy:

“You’re a motherfucking faggot. … You’re a fucking faggot, Billy.”

Here’s the video of the incident (Kennedy is #55)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver delivered a statement of support for 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.”

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Mashable’s Sam Laird described Kennedy as a “hero.”

“Comments like Rondo’s show there’s still a very strong stigma around homosexuality in the professional sports world, despite pubic declarations of support from league brass and marketing campaigns,” writes Laird.

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“That’s why Kennedy’s announcement is such a big deal. He didn’t just come out — he directly and publicly rebuked the culture that discourages people like him from living freely in the first place.”

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Yahoo Sports adds:

In suspending Rondo on Friday, the NBA issued a statement saying that he had been punished for “directing a derogatory and offensive term towards a game official and not leaving the court in a timely manner.”

Under typical NBA procedure in these cases, the league had two independent experts review the tapes of the confrontation, and they confirmed the referees’ accounts on Rondo’s language. This was part of the reason why the league took more than a week to make a ruling on Rondo’s punishment.

Rondo denied to league officials he made the comments. When reached on Monday, a Rondo spokesperson declined comment.

Rondo is the third NBA player to be punished for the use of anti-gay slurs, but the first to be suspended. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was fined $50,000 during the 2011 playoffs for making a slur toward a heckling fan, and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for using an anti-gay slur toward a referee earlier that same season. Both players apologized for the comments.

Rondo – who is making $9.5 million this season – is suspended for Sacramento’s game against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday. He will lose $86,300 in game salary for the suspension.

h/t: NCRM