Sports / Basketball

NBA referee says he is gay after Rondo slur

By Associated Press in New York (China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-16 08:23

Veteran NBA referee Bill Kennedy has told Yahoo Sports he is gay after Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo directed a gay slur at him during a game.

Kennedy told Yahoo he is "proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man", adding he chose to come out in the hope of sending a message "that you must allow no one to make you feel ashamed of who you are."

Rondo was suspended one game by the NBA for directing a derogatory and offensive term toward a referee in the Kings' game against Boston in Mexico on Dec 3. Rondo apologized on Monday and the Kings said his comments were disrespectful and offensive.

Kennedy is in his 18th season as an NBA official, having worked more than 1,050 regular-season games and five in the NBA Finals.

"I wholeheartedly support Bill's decision to live his life proudly and openly," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said 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, we are working to ensure everyone is treated with respect and dignity."

Kennedy worked San Antonio's home game against Utah on Monday, receiving applause from fans when he was shown on the videoboard with the officiating crew and his name was announced.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich criticized Rondo's comments before the game.

"It's unfortunate," Popovich said. "It's disgusting, because Billy is a great guy. He's been a class act on and off the court. And as far as anyone's sexual orientation, it's just nobody's business. It just shows ignorance to act in a derogatory way toward anybody in the LGBT community. It just doesn't make sense."

The league took more than a week before announcing a penalty for Rondo, who will sit out Sacramento's game against Houston on Tuesday.

Kennedy and another referee told league investigators Rondo used profanity and anti-gay comments.

"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 general manager Vlade Divac said.

"Rajon has apologized. This is not the sort of behavior we condone nor does it represent the Sacramento Kings organization."

Owner Vivek Ranadive also apologized to Kennedy.

Rondo wrote on Twitter that his actions during the game "were out of frustration and emotion, period!"

"They absolutely do not reflect my feelings toward the LGBT community," Rondo said. "I did not mean to offend or disrespect anyone."

The referees union did not return AP's request for a comment.

(China Daily 12/16/2015 page19)

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