Longtime NBA referee Bill Kennedy came out as openly gay Sunday in a statement to Yahoo Sports. Kennedy's decision to come out comes in the wake of Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo's one-game suspension for an expletive-filled rant against him two weeks ago. Yahoo Sports reveals that Rondo's suspension was the result of a tirade that included the Kings guard's use of homophobic slurs toward 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."
Here's video of the incident and Rondo's ejection:
Rondo will serve his one-game suspension Tuesday against the Rockets. Rondo posted the following tweets to his account Monday.
My actions during the game were out of frustration and emotion, period!— Rajon Rondo (@RajonRondo) December 14, 2015
They absolutely do not reflect my feelings toward the LGBT community. I did not mean to offend or disrespect anyone.— Rajon Rondo (@RajonRondo) December 14, 2015
That's not exactly an apology, which Vlade Divac said was coming in a statement after Rondo elected not to speak to reports Monday. Here's what Divac and Kings owner Vivek Ranadive:
"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,” said Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Vlade Divac. “Rajon has apologized and this is not the sort of behavior we condone nor is it representative of the Sacramento Kings organization."
“Rajon's comment is not reflective of the culture of the Sacramento Kings organization or the world we want to live in,” said Kings Owner and Chairman Vivek Ranadivé. “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.”
There's little room for confusion over what it was Rondo said, and that's a serious matter. Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 in 2011 for directing a homophobic slur at official Bennie Adams. Joakim Noah was later fined $50,000 for the same thing. Whether the suspension was levied because of Rondo's remarks toward Kennedy or because he refused to leave the court and had to be actively restrained from physically approaching Kennedy is unclear.
Kennedy revealed to Yahoo Sports 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."
The NBA has made serious efforts to embrace diversity efforts over the past few years, with Adam Silver saying in 2014 the league "fell behind" on such issues despite Jason Collins coming out as the first active openly gay player.
Rondo's former coach, Doc Rivers, has a long-standing animosity toward Kennedy, and Kennedy was once fined for an altercation with Rivers. Disgraced former official Tim Donaghy once claimed that the root of that animosity was Rivers' comments toward Kennedy about his sexuality, which Donaghy revealed in an interview before Kennedy elected to come out. You can expect further fallout from this for Rondo and the Kings now that the nature of the incident has been revealed.