Bill Kennedy

Bill Kennedy

*Following years of unconfirmed rumors, at least one attempt to out him and becoming the target of a slur hurled by Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo last week, veteran NBA referee Bill Kennedy has announced he is gay.

“I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man,” Kennedy told Yahoo Sports. “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 announcement comes after Rondo’s ejection and subsequent suspension on Dec. 3, stemming from the two technical fouls Kennedy gave him during a game against the Boston Celtics in Mexico City.

Rondo stepped to Kennedy after the first technical and yelled at him, then, continued yelling after Kennedy gave him the second tech. As he was being pulled away by teammates, Rondo called Kennedy a gay slur, two sources told ESPN. Video of the encounter appears to show Rondo using the language.

Rajon Rondo and Bill Kennedy

Rajon Rondo and Bill Kennedy

Some of Kennedy’s fellow officials were aware of his sexual orientation but not all, sources told ESPN.

In 2010, disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy outed Kennedy to some when he told a Boston radio station that Kennedy was a homosexual and it was known by some in the league.

Kennedy, a 49-year-old Phoenix native and resident, has worked over 1,100 NBA games – including 68 playoff games and five Finals games – throughout his 18 seasons as an NBA official.

“I wholeheartedly support Bill’s decision to live his life proudly and openly,” stated NBA commissioner Adam Silver. “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 is the second referee to come out in the last two years. Referee Violet Palmer announced she was gay in the summer of 2014. Palmer came out to her fellow officials in 2007.