NBA official Bill Kennedy revealed he is gay on Sunday evening, becoming the second openly homosexual referee in the league.
"I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man," Kennedy told Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. "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’s revelation comes a week after Sacramento Kings’ point guard Rajon Rondo yelled a homosexual slur at him during a game following a technical foul. Kennedy issued Rondo a second technical foul and ejected him from the game.
On Friday, the NBA 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.”
According to Deadspin, Kennedy’s sexuality was an open secret throughout the league, and Rondo likely knew of Kennedy’s sexual orientation.
"I wholeheartedly support Bill's decision to live his life proudly and openly," NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Yahoo Sports. "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."
Kennedy follows in the footsteps fellow referee Violet Palmer, the first female official in NBA history who revealed she was gay in 2014. Kennedy also follows in the footsteps of former NBA player Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the history of the “big four” American pro sports.
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.