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NBA Referee Bill Kennedy: 'Proud to Be a Gay Man'

Bill Kennedy

A top NBA referee who was the target of a player’s antigay outburst earlier this month has come out as gay.

“I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man,” Bill Kennedy told Yahoo Sports 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.” He declined to elaborate.

Kennedy, who has been an NBA ref for 18 seasons, is the second to come out as gay, according to Yahoo Sports. The first was Violet Palmer, who has long been out and married her partner, Tanya Stine, in 2014.

Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo received a one-game suspension Friday as punishment for a profanity-laden tirade, in which he called Kennedy a “faggot,” after Kennedy ejected him from a game against the Boston Celtics in Mexico City December 3. Kennedy had thrown Rondo out of the game for technical fouls, and the player “defied league protocol to immediately leave the court and began stalking Kennedy, who had retreated to a far sideline of the floor,” Yahoo Sports reports.

NBA officials issued a statement Friday saying Rondo had been suspended for “directing a derogatory and offensive term towards a game official and not leaving the court in a timely manner.” Rondo denied he used the language, but NBA had independent experts review a recording and confirm it, according to Yahoo Sports.

Rondo is the first NBA player to be suspended for using an antigay slur, the site reports, although two others have been fined — Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls in 2011, for directing such language toward a fan, and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers the same season, for using a slur toward a referee.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued Yahoo Sports a supportive statement on Kennedy’s coming-out. “I wholeheartedly support Bill’s decision to live his life proudly and openly,” Silver said. “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.”

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