The reactions were swift and positive from Dallas Mavericks officials after NBA referee Bill Kennedy told Yahoo Sports that he’s gay.
“I don’t think it’s been a secret for a long time, but I’m proud of him,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said prior to Monday’s game between the Mavs and Phoenix Suns. “He represents the NBA as well as anybody that puts on a uniform — official or player.
“Good for him. I’ve got some fond memories of Bill and visiting with him has been more positive.”
According to Yahoo Sports, Kennedy told the publication he was gay in the wake of a one-game suspension the NBA handed Sacramento Kings veteran Rajon Rondo after the point guard allegedly used an anti-gay slur toward Kennedy during a Dec. 3 game in Mexico City against the Boston Celtics.
The report said that after Rondo received two technical fouls and was ejected from the game, he “began stalking” Kennedy using the same homosexual slur two times.
Kennedy joins Violet Palmer as NBA referees who have publicly admitted that they are gay.
Cuban said he has certain rules in place for his players that they must adhere to in regard to treatment of game officials, or else they will be issued a fine by the Mavs.
“I can’t control Mavs fans,” Cuban said. “With 20,000 people [in American Airlines Center], somebody is going to say something.
“But our players, we do have a specific decorum. You can show emotions, but there’s certain words you can’t use.”
Coach Rick Carlisle was candid in his comments about Kennedy, who was one of the three officials who worked Saturday’s game between the Mavs and Washington Wizards at AAC.
“I have great respect for him both as a referee and a person,” Carlisle said. “He’s a guy that has grown so much as an official over the years. He’s always been a guy that you can talk to. I respect him for making public his situation.”
Cuban said Kennedy is one of the referees who will interact with him during games while he’s at his courtside seat.
“His demeanor on the court has been exemplary,” Cuban said. “He’ll talk and he stays positive. Some guys will just clam up and put a shell around them. He’s out there doing his job — he’s communicative.”
Although he’s had more than his share of run-ins with the referees during his near 16-year tenure as the Mavs’ owner, Cuban is adamant about his players not crossing the line when it comes to their contact with the officiating crew.
“We been very clear there’s certain terms you don’t use ... period, end of story,” Cuban said. “It doesn’t matter who you say it to. I can’t speak with what happened with Rajon. I don’t know, but things just aren’t right and we try to live up to that.”
Carlisle drew a little laughter during his pregame press conference Monday when asked about outscoring Washington 39-24 in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 114-111 loss to the Wizards.
As it turned out, the Mavs used a zone defense during the quarter. And it was the first time they’ve used a zone defense this season.
“We had little guys out there; we installed a zone defense during a timeout,” Carlisle said. “It was a bunch of nonsense, really, if we’re going to be honest.
“We didn’t install it in training camp because we were really working on our man principles. If you’re a good five-on-five man defensive team it’s going to look like a zone anyway, because five guys are reacting to the ball.”