SACRAMENTO -- There is never a dull moment in Sacramento. In case you missed the news of the morning, Rajon Rondo’s suspension over the weekend was not your typical disagreement with an NBA official.
Rondo made homophobic slurs to long-time NBA official Bill Kennedy, who announced Monday morning that he is homosexual. The league’s reaction was to suspend Rondo for one game without pay, which he will serve Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets.
Rondo did not make himself available to the media on Monday afternoon. Instead, he stood by shooting free throws while George Karl and Vlade Divac took turns in the hot seat. Despite speaking to the media at length, Divac also released a statement on the subject.
“Rajon’s comment was disrespectful and offensive, and we wholeheartedly disapprove of any language that discriminates or disparages others based on sexual orientation or anything else,” Vlade Divac said in a prepared statement. “Rajon has apologized and this is not the sort of behavior we condone nor is it representative of the Sacramento Kings organization."
Owner Vivek Ranadivé took the apology a step further, publicly apologizing to Kennedy through a prepared statement.
“Rajon's comment is not reflective of the culture of the Sacramento Kings organization or the world we want to live in,” Ranadivé said. “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.”
The Kings are in the middle of a four game layoff and have won two straight coming into Tuesday night’s matchup with Houston. After what was described as one of their best practices of the season on Saturday, Monday’s session was less than stellar.
“We had a distracted practice today, there’s no question that we didn’t play at a good level,” Karl said.
Karl said that he and his star point guard had yet to discuss the report, but he noted that he and Rondo have discussions all the time and felt that they would sit down over this latest situation.
The veteran coach has to walk the fine line between managing his team and presenting his thoughts on a delicate subject. Like Divac, Karl has known Kennedy for years and considers him a quality NBA official.
Both Karl and Divac have lived through an extremely progressive time in the league and the NBA has been out in front of plenty of social change over the last decade.
“I feel the league is a good leader of social issues,” Karl said. “And discrimination against gays is something that cannot be tolerated and I’m happy that the league is strong in that case. But in the same sense, I have to prepare the team and support Rajon in this season in a positive way. It’s not an easy place to be.”
While Karl wouldn’t speak for Rondo, Divac later acknowledged that his prized free agent acquisition had apologized for his actions behind closed doors.
“He doesn’t mean that, we don’t support that as an organization, you’re going to see it today, he apologized obviously,” Divac said while Rondo stood some 20 feet away.
“I’m glad that people can live freely in the way they want to live,” Divac added. “I really support that.”
The All-Star point guard later turned to social media to make a statement.
“My actions during the game were out of frustration and emotion, period!,” Rondo tweeted. "They absolutely do not reflect my feelings toward the LGBT community. I did not mean to offend or disrespect anyone,” Rondo added.
According to Divac, the players know and should understand that using this type of language is off limits. The league sends out very specific guidelines before each season. As general manager and vice president of basketball operations for the Kings, Divac seemed genuinely embarrassed by the situation.
“I felt bad as a person, but also a general manager of an organization that we were in this kind of connection, we don’t support that,” Divac said.
According to a source, Divac and Kennedy spoke Monday afternoon. Divac personally apologized to Kennedy on behalf of the organization. Whether or not Rondo plans to do the same is unknown at this time.