Metro Weekly

Rajon Rondo “apologizes” for yelling slurs at gay referee UPDATE: Rondo issues formal apology

NBA ref Bill Kennedy comes out as gay following Rondo's temper tantrum for being ejected from game

Rajon Rondo (Photo: Sacramento Kings, via Facebook).
Rajon Rondo (Photo: Sacramento Kings, via Facebook).

UPDATE: Sacramento Kings point guard Rajon Rondo has issued a formal apology for lobbing anti-gay slurs at openly gay referee Bill Kennedy following his ejection from a game against the Boston Celtics. After initially taking to Twitter to issue what many felt was an insufficient apology, Rondo addressed the criticism head-on. 

“…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,” he said. “I want to be clear, from the bottom of my heart, that I am truly sorry for what I said to Bill. There is not 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.”

Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo took to Twitter on Monday to respond to critics after Bill Kennedy, one of the NBA’s top referees and the target of a homophobic-laced temper tantrum by Rondo, came out as openly gay.

“I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man,” Kennedy told Yahoo Sports on Sunday. “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 coming out follows an incident where Rondo began stalking Kennedy and hurling anti-gay slurs at him after Kennedy ruled that Rondo had amassed too many technical fouls, resulting in his ejection from a Dec. 3 game against the Boston Celtics. After being ejected, Rondo did not leave the court but began calling Kennedy a “motherfucking faggot” as part of a diatribe. According to game officials, Rondo had to be restrained by teammates and escorted off the court. The Kings went on to lose the game, and Rondo was later suspended following an investigation. As a result, he will not be playing in Tuesday’s game against the Houston Rockets. 

On Monday, Rondo tweeted: “My actions during the game were out of frustration and emotion, period!” and “They absolutely do not reflect my feelings toward the LGBT community. I did not mean to offend or disrespect anyone.”

While Rondo did not make himself available to the media or issue any public comments, Kings General Manager Vlade Divac released a statement calling the comments “disrespectful and offensive” and claiming that Rondo had apologized privately.

“…We wholeheartedly disapprove of any language that discriminates or disparages others based on sexual orientation or anything else,” Divac said in the statement. “Rajon has apologized and this is not the sort of behavior we condone nor is it representative of the Sacramento Kings organization.”

“Rajon’s comment is not reflective of the culture of the Sacramento Kings organization or the world we want to live in,” said Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé added in his own statement. “He’s apologized, and has been suspended by the NBA. On behalf of the team, I apologize to Bill Kennedy for any harm this may have caused.”

In a statement, the NBA said that Rondo had been punished for “directing a derogatory and offensive term towards a game official and not leaving the court in a timely manner.” As part of the investigation, the NBC had two independent experts review tapes of the confrontation, and they confirmed the referees’ accounts that Rondo had indeed directed the anti-gay slurs at Kennedy.

Rondo’s suspension makes him the third NBA player in recent years to be punished for using anti-gay slurs, but the first to be suspended, Yahoo Sports reports. In 2011, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was fined $50,000 for directing a slur at a heckler, while Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for directing a similar slur at a referee during that same season. Both later apologized for their comments.

Meanwhile, the NBA sought to distance itself from the controversy, with Commissioner Adam Silver praising Kennedy in a statement.

“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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