NBA official Bill Kennedy reveals he is gay, in a statement to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Kennedy’s announcement comes soon after Kings guard Rajon Rondo was suspended for an incident between the two in a game earlier this month.

“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.”

Rondo’s ejection occurred during a Dec. 3 game between the Kings and Celtics in Mexico City. Kennedy issued a technical foul to Rondo in the third quarter; after Isaiah Thomas shot the free throw, Rondo walked over to Kennedy and kept talking to him. Kennedy gave him a second technical foul and ejected him from the game.

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According to Wojnarowski’s report, Rondo called Kennedy a faggot, and multiple people on the court heard the slurs:

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———- faggot. … You’re a f——— faggot, 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.

The NBA announced on Friday that it had suspended Rondo for one game for “directing a derogatory and offensive term towards a game official and not leaving the court in a timely manner upon his ejection.”

Kennedy’s sexuality was apparently an open secret in NBA circles, according to disgraced former ref Tim Donaghy. Back in 2010, Donaghy casually revealed Kennedy was gay, and implied that then-Celtics coach Doc Rivers went after him for it:

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Question: one of the referees I’ve been annoyed with over the years is Bill Kennedy, every time he has a Celtics game I almost know that we’re not getting calls. Is his relationships with Doc Rivers or the Celtics organization as a whole something you know about.

Donaghy: That’s a difficult question for me to answer because I certainly don’t want to offend anybody… I’m just gonna come out and say it like it is. It’s no secret on the staff that Bill Kennedy is a homosexual… I don’t have any ill will towards gays or lesbians, but it was no secret that he’s a homosexual. It was known around the league, it was obvious during a game Doc Rivers questioned his sexual orientation and I think that has stuck with Kennedy over the years and he has no love for Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics

Today, gambler Haralabos Voulgaris said Rivers, who was Rondo’s coach at the time, used the “derogatory term” in the playoffs between the Celtics and Bulls. Kennedy officiated Game 4 of the series on April 26, 2009:

Voulgaris said the slur Rivers used against Kennedy was the same one Rondo used earlier this month. And though Wojnarowski’s report doesn’t address it, Voulgaris finds it hard to believe that Rondo wouldn’t have known Kennedy’s sexuality.

Kennedy becomes the second NBA official to publicly come out, following Violet Palmer’s announcement last year.

Update (5:05 p.m.): Rondo has issued an apology on Twitter.

Update (5:23 p.m.): Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and general manager Vlade Divac have issued statements.

[Yahoo]


Contact the author at samer@deadspin.com.