Top NBA referee Bill Kennedy comes out as gay

Leading NBA referee Bill Kennedy has come out as gay.

Speaking to Yahoo Sports on Sunday evening, Kennedy said: “I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man.”

He went on: “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 has not commented further on the announcement, but has already received support from within the NBA.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a statement reading: “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.”

This announcement comes just days after Kennedy, 49, was party to Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo’s outburst of homophobic slurs.

Kennedy was one of three officials who heard the outburst after Rondo was ejected by the referee for technical fouls during a game in Mexico City on 3 December.

Rondo said: “You’re a motherf**king faggot… You’re a f**king faggot, Billy.”

According to reports from officials at the game, Rondo had “aggressively pursued” Kennedy, and later “had to be restrained by teammates”.

His announcement makes him the second NBA referee to come out as gay, as Violet Palmer revealed that she is gay last September.

Having been active through 18 NBA seasons, Kennedy has officiated 1,056 regular season and 68 playoff games. He has also officiated five NBA Finals games, and worked on the 2012 Olympics

Kennedy remains the only referee to work the NBA All-Star Game, NBA Finals and bronze-medal Olympic game in the same year.