NBA Referee Comes Out After a Rajon Rondo Called him a "Faggot"

December 16th 2015

Taylor Bell

In a rare admission from the world of professional sports, one the NBA's top officials admitted to being gay after being called several anti-gay slurs during a basketball game, CBS News reports.

Bill Kennedy, a 18-year veteran in the NBA, came out on Monday following an incident with Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo. After Kennedy ejected Rondo out of the game against the Boston Celtics, Rondo fired a string of homophobic slurs to Kennedy, which later prompted the referee to respond and reveal his sexuality.

Related: The Troubling Contradiction Among Supporters of Gay Rights

"I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man," Kennedy told Yahoo Sports. "I am following the 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 you who are."

According to Yahoo, Kennedy is just the second NBA referee to make a public announcement about being gay in the last two years—the other is Violet Palmer. However, in 2010 former NBA referee Tony Donaghy also revealed he was gay to a Boston radio station, according to ESPN.

According to the NBA's official report of the incident, other referees heard Rondo yell derogatory statements, including: "You're a mother f***ing f****t. You're a f****t, Billy," Yahoo reports. For his actions, Rondo later issued two apologies. One via Twitter below:

And the other apology by way of an official press release statement through the Sacramento Kings to better express his remorse.

“Yesterday, I said that my words toward Bill Kennedy were unacceptable and did not reflect my feelings toward the LGBT community. Some have interpreted my comments as a non-apology. I want to be clear, 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 league also suspended Rondo for his actions, and he will lose $83,600.

Rondo is now the third NBA player to be punished for using homophobic slurs during a game. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was fined $50,000 during the 2011 playoffs for making a slur toward a fan, and Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant was fined $100,00 for using a derogatory slur toward a referee earlier in that same 2011 season.

In a statement to Yahoo, NBA commissioner Adam Silver expressed his support of Kennedy.

"I 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. 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."

Related: What the U.S. Could Learn from LGBT Laws in These 15 Countries

Sports figures who have impacted gay rights in sports

Over the course of the years the stigma associated with homosexuality in major league sports—especially male dominated sports—still remains. But some people are challenging this type of discrimination.

In 2014 former University of Missouri defensive end, Michael Sam, made headlines when he became the first openly gay football player in the National Football League as a player for the St. Louis Rams.

Before that, LA Galaxy soccer star Robbie Rogers changed the face of sports in 2013 as the first openly gay athlete in all five major sports. And behind him is retired basketball player Jason Collins—who shocked everyone when he became the first active openly gay basketball player—and women's basketball player Brittney Griner who also acknowledged that she is gay according to the NY Times.

RELATED: Who's Really to Blame for Homophobia in Sports?