Veteran NBA referee Bill Kennedy revealed Sunday night that he is gay, telling 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.”
Kennedy’s announcement came after the NBA on Friday issued a one-game suspension of Kings guard Rajon Rondo, who the league determined had directed anti-gay slurs at Kennedy and followed him across the court after Kennedy, 49, ejected him in the third quarter of a Dec. 3 game against the Celtics in Mexico City.
Rondo apologized on Monday afternoon on his verified Twitter account.
“My actions during the game were out of frustration and emotion, period!” Rondo tweeted. “They absolutely do not reflect my feelings toward the LGBT community. I did not mean to offend or disrespect anyone.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Yahoo in a statement, “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.”
Kings owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé also released a statement.
“Rajon’s comment is not reflective of the culture of the Sacramento Kings organization or the world we want to live in,” Ranadivé said. “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 originally denied making the derogatory comments. He will have to sit out the Kings’ game against the Rockets on Tuesday.
“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,” Kings vice president of basketball operations and general manager Vlade Divac said. “Rajon has apologized and this is not the sort of behavior we condone nor is it representative of the Sacramento Kings organization.”
Kennedy is the second NBA referee to publicly acknowledge being gay. Violet Palmer did so last year.