Longtime NBA referee Bill Kennedy revealed to Yahoo Sports Sunday night that he is gay, making him the second openly gay active NBA official after Violet Palmer's announcement in 2014. He's also the third active openly gay official in pro sports along with MLB umpire Dale Scott. From 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."
In a statement provided to CBS Sports NBA Insider Ken Berger and the rest of the league, NBA commissioner Adam Silver delivered his support for Kennedy:
"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."
OutSports spoke with an openly gay high school coach for his reaction, which summed up the announcement well:
"I think any time someone can be out at the top of their profession it's a win," out gay high school basketball coach Anthony Nicodemo told Outsports. "It shows others that you can succeed and sexual orientation does not matter."
Kennedy's decision to come out comes in the wake of Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo's suspension for an expletive-filled rant against him two weeks ago. Yahoo Sports reveals that Rondo's one-game suspension was the result of a tirade that included the Kings guard's use of homophobic slurs towards Kennedy.
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-----. … You're a f------ f-----, 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."
The three officials – Kennedy, Taylor and Adams – confirmed those reports in taped interviews conducted by NBA security on Dec. 4, Seham said
Seham told Yahoo Sports: "The NBA referees stand by Bill Kennedy for the job he does and who he is. We stand against bigotry in all its forms."
Rondo will serve his one-game suspension Tuesday against the Rockets.
The NBA has been actively pursuing policies to provide an inclusive environment for LGBT fans, players, coaches, front-office executives, and everyone involved in the game, for some time. Adam Silver said in 2014 that he felt the league "fell behind" on the issue, even with Jason Collins' announcement several years ago that he was an active gay NBA player.
According to the NBA, Kennedy has been officiating games for close to 37 seasons across high school, CBA and NBA contests.