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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 18, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 51
Bill Kennedy, one of the NBA's top referees, comes out as Gay
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Bill Kennedy, one of the NBA's top referees, comes out as Gay

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On December 3 the National Basketball Association suspended Sacramento Kings point guard Rajon Rondo for one game for derogatory comments directed at referee Bill Kennedy during a game against the Celtics.

'I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a Gay man,' Bill Kennedy told Yahoo Sports December 6.

'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 said.

According to an NBA statement, Rondo was ejected for 'directing a derogatory and offensive term towards a game official' and not leaving the court in a timely manner upon his ejection.

Kennedy and fellow referee Ben Taylor described Rondo as saying, 'You're a motherf***ing faggot' and 'You're a f***ing faggot, Billy.'

There is a sense that Rondo was among those in the league that guessed or knew that Kennedy was Gay, and that his remark was purposefully hateful.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement that he '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,' Silver said. '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.'

Following Kennedy's announcement that he is Gay, Rondo took to Twitter to offer somewhat of an apology.

One tweet by Rondo said, 'My actions during the game were out of frustration and emotion, period!' Followed by 'They absolutely do not reflect my feelings toward the LGBT community. I did not mean to offend or disrespect anyone.'

Critics expressed frustration saying he should have offered a full apology for his actions. Then on December 8 Rondo released an official statement about the incident saying, 'Yesterday I said that my words toward Bill Kennedy were unacceptable and did not reflect my feelings towards the LGBT community. Some have interpreted my comments as a non-apology. I want to say, from the bottom of my heart, that I am truly sorry for what I said to Bill. There is no place on or off the court for language that disrespects anyone's sexual orientation. That is not who I am or what I believe and I will strive every day to be a better person.'

The issue, for most people, might be put to sleep after the apology was given by Rondo, however, according to some NBA officials, Rondo is far from being the only person to use homophobic slurs on or off the court. The NBA does not openly discriminate against players due to their sexual orientation but if what some officials say is true, the players definitely do.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said as such to reporters on December 7, 'Why would I be surprised? You see it all the time.' Popovich said 'It's unfortunate, it's disgusting, because Billy is a great guy, and has been a class act on and off the court.

'As far as anybody's sexual orientation is concerned, it's nobody's business,' he said. 'It just shows ignorance to act in a derogatory way toward anybody in the LGBT community. It doesn't make sense. But surprised, of course not.'

Popovich says that Kennedy 'showed a lot of courage' by coming out as Gay.

Although some progress has been made, amateur and professional sports leagues continue to be challenging, whether inadvertently or not, to Gay athletes and personnel.

According to a study titled 'Out on the Fields,' 83 percent of American Gay identified youth and 63 percent of American Lesbian identified youth surveyed were still 'completely or partially' in the closet.

The study also found that '73 percent of all those surveyed said youth sports is not a safe or welcoming place for the LGB community.'

This type of rhetoric appears to be present in levels of sports from high school on to the professionals.

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