NBA referee Bill Kennedy has revealed that he is gay after he was allegedly the target of homophobic slurs made by Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo, Yahoo Sports reports.
Kennedy said in a statement to Yahoo Sports, “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 for one game by the NBA after the league investigated the alleged slurs, which came after Rondo was ejected from a game by Kennedy on December 3, Yahoo reports.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rondo Allegedly Called Kennedy a ‘F*ggot’
According to Yahoo Sports, Rondo allegedly stalked Kennedy after he was ejected for committing two technical fouls.
Kennedy and another referee, Ben Taylor, said the point guard said during his outburst, “You’re a motherf*cking f*ggot. … You’re a f*cking f*ggot, Billy.”
A video shows the moment Rondo was ejected from the game, which was being played in Mexico City against his former team, the Boston Celtics:
Rondo has denied using the slurs, according to Yahoo. He tweeted about the allegations on Monday:
Rondo will serve his suspension during Sacramento’s Tuesday night game. The NBA said Rondo was suspended for, “directing a derogatory and offensive term towards a game official and not leaving the court in a timely manner upon his ejection.”
Kings Vice President of Basketball Operations Vlade Divac said in a statement, “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. Rajon has apologized and this is not the sort of behavior we condone nor is it representative of the Sacramento Kings organization.”
Vivek Ranadivé, the team’s owner, added in a statement of his own, “Rajon’s comment is not reflective of the culture of the Sacramento Kings organization or the world we want to live in. 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.”
2. Former NBA Ref Tim Donaghy Claimed Kennedy’s Sexuality Was Behind His Feud With Coach Doc Rivers
Disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy revealed that Kennedy is gay in 2010, during an interview on the Celtics Late Night Show, the Celtics blog Red’s Army reported at the time. According to Donaghy, Kennedy’s sexuality was no secret around the league.
Donaghy, who admitted to betting games he officiated and was sent to federal prison for his role in a gambling ring, was asked if there was a reason Kennedy seemed to have issues with then-Celtics coach Doc Rivers:
That’s a difficult question for me to answer because I certainly don’t want to offend anybody… I’m just gonna come out and say it like it is. It’s no secret on the staff that Bill Kennedy is a homosexual… I don’t have any ill will towards gays or lesbians, but it was no secret that he’s a homosexual. It was known around the league, it was obvious during a game Doc Rivers questioned his sexual orientation and I think that has stuck with Kennedy over the years and he has no love for Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics.
Donaghy also tweeted about Kennedy and Rivers earlier this year:
Rivers, who now coaches the Los Angeles Clippers, denied using an anti-gay slur toward Kennedy in an interview Monday with NBC Sports:
That was not true. Sometimes, I hope I have more credibility than where that came from. Bill and I have a great relationship. But that’s been out there forever, and i would say this: It’s funny that it’s out there any nobody really asked me the question, because they knew. Not saying you shouldn’t ask the question, but it’s amazing nowadays that all you have to do is blog something or write something, and then it takes on its own life.
Rivers was fined $25,000 for publicly criticizing Kennedy in 2009 when he was the Celtics coach.
“[Kennedy] stood there and goaded me and goaded me and goaded me and stared at me,” Rivers said in 2009, according to the Boston Herald. “Look at the film. I actually walked away. He asked me, ‘Where do you want the ball?’ And I said, ‘Ask them,’ talking about our players. That’s my right to say that, and I walked away. He stood there and stared me down and stared me down and goaded me until I turned around and said, ‘What?’ That’s when I got thrown out of the game.”
Rivers told NBC Sports on Monday, “I have run-ins with a lot of refs, but it’s over usually pretty much after the game. Then, the next game that you lose that they do, then everybody says there’s something going on. You almost have to win every game after that when that ref refs the game. Otherwise, then, at least from a fan perspective, they’re thinking, ‘He’s out to get you.’ I don’t know a ref alive that does that.”
3. Kennedy Has Been a Referee in the NBA for 18 Seasons
Kennedy, 49, is in his 18th season as an NBA referee, according to the NBA’s Officials Media Guide.
He is a Phoenix, Arizona, native and attended Arizona State University.
Prior to this season, Kennedy had officiated during 1,056 regular season NBA games, 68 playoff games and five NBA Finals games.
4. He Has Also Been a Ref for FIBA, the WNBA, & the CBA
Kennedy began his officiating career as a high school referee in Arizona, according to the NBA Officials Media Guide.
He spent five years as a referee in the now-defunct Continental Basketball Association, and has officiated in two WNBA Finals games.
Kennedy has also been a referee in FIBA international play, including during the 2010 World Championships and the 2012 Olympics. According to Yahoo, Kennedy is the only referee to officiate during the NBA All-Star Game, the NBA Finals and the bronze-medial Olympic game in the same year.
5. He Is the Second Openly Gay NBA Referee
Kennedy is the second openly gay NBA referee, joining Violet Palmer, who was also the league’s first female official.
Palmer announced she was gay last year before her marriage to her longtime partner, Tanya Stine.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he supports Kennedy’s decision to come out.
“I wholeheartedly support Bill’s decision to live his life proudly and openly,” Silver said in a statement to Yahoo Sports. “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.”