Earlier this week we learned that the NBA suspended Sacramento Kings point guard Rajon Rondo for one game for directing a gay slur at a referee known to be gay by many in the NBA. Commissioner Adam Silver has now explained that a longer suspension was not handed down, in part, because he was worried it would out the referee to the general public.
Silver was a guest on Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast to discuss the suspension.
The commissioner first explains the decision to suspend Rondo as opposed to just fine him, a penalty that had been given to Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah for previous incidents in which they had used a gay slur during a game.
“The thinking of our office was that this was of a different quality and character than those other incidents because while they did frankly involve gay slurs, they were not as personal, frankly they were not directed at someone who is gay. Whether or not Rondo knew that, I don’t know. But they were directed at a particular official who happened to be gay, and in addition, these comments were directed in a particularly aggressive manner. As you noted, Rondo went back at Bill Kennedy [after being ejected] and had to be restrained and would not leave the court in an orderly fashion.”
Silver then went on to explain why the league stopped at a 1-game suspension and did not issue a harsher punishment, something many people believe was warranted.
The commissioner first explains that the players have “a very powerful union,” and also made it clear that he did not think it would be fair to Rondo to use him to send a bigger message to others, saying “I don’t think we should be making an example out of anyone.”
But then the commissioner made a surprising admission. Silver admits that one reason Rondo did not get a harsher penalty had little to do with what Rondo actually deserved and the reason is fascinating: Silver was worried he was going to out the referee, Bill Kennedy.
While Silver acknowledges that many in the NBA knew Kennedy was gay, the official had never made that public and did not inform Silver of his decision to do so until Sunday, two days after the suspension had been handed down.
“I was also of the view that had I gone on to two games from one game, or perhaps even to three games, it would have been clear that something else was going on here, not just what was apparent on TV. In the back my mind I was concerned about that. It did not seem appropriate to me that I should, by virtue of a bad act by Rajon Rondo, out Bill Kennedy.”
In other words, Silver’s 1-game suspension of Rondo was what he considered a compromise between what actually happened and what the public thought had happened. And Silver did it hoping to protect Kennedy.
In the end, Kennedy decided to announce he was gay in a column written by Wojnarowski. But the decision is still fascinating nonetheless, knowing that the circumstances were far more complicated for the NBA before Kennedy made the announcement.
You can listen to the entire podcast here.
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