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Adam Silver says he hesitated to suspend Rajon Rondo longer to avoid outing Bill Kennedy

Why did Rajon Rondo receive only a one-game suspension for his his anti-gay outburst against gay referee Bill Kennedy?

It seemed the Kings point guard deserved a stiffer penalty.

In one sense, the NBA was hamstrung by previous rulings. Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah were fined, but not suspended, for using anti-gay slurs in 2011. Rondo’s overall antics granted more leeway, but other considerations shortened Rondo’s suspension.

The timeline was important:

  • Dec. 3: Rondo ejected for staring down Kennedy and then goes off on tirade
  • Dec. 11: NBA suspends Rondo one game for “directing a derogatory and offensive term towards a game official and not leaving the court in a timely manner upon his ejection”
  • Dec. 14: Kennedy comes out publicly as gay
NBA commissioner Adam Silver, via The Vertical Podcast with Woj:

Had I gone let’s say to two games from one game, or even possibly to three games, it would have been clear that something else was going on here, not just what was apparent on TV.

Because I should point out that those who watched the telecast, it’s not apparent at all what Rondo is saying, and it required in addition to the direct interviews of two officials on the floor and of course the referees’ report, an analysis of the tapes by two independent experts to determine that.

But, while Bill Kennedy was known to be gay by many people in the league, Bill Kennedy had never made that very, very personal decision to publicly come out and announce to the world that he was a gay NBA referee.

And my view – just because the chronology here is important. We made the decision to suspend Rondo for one game on Friday. Bill Kennedy’s decision to become public about being gay was not made until Monday, when you released that story. And he did not talk to me until Sunday, to tell me he had made that decision.

So, I have to say, in the back of 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.

Silver’s compassion is laudable. Coming out should have been Kennedy’s decision and his alone.

But there’s another spin: Rondo might have received a lesser suspension because Kennedy, who was open in some circles, hadn’t yet chosen to share his sexual orientation publicly. That doesn’t seem fair.

Of course, not everything can be fair, and Silver’s concerns were accurate. When the league suspended Rondo eight days after the incident, Kurt noted the odd timing. A longer suspension would’ve raised more flags.

Rondo put everyone – especially Kennedy – in a tough spot. I hope Kennedy was comfortable coming out publicly and didn’t feel he had his hand forced. And I hope Rondo understands the gravity of his actions.

Rondo will have to answer for them tonight, when Sacramento visits the Timberwolves for Rondo’s first game back from suspension. He and the Kings should feel fortunate he’s returning so soon.

If you’re a Comcast subscriber in Northern California, you can stream tonight’s Kings-Timberwolves game here.