Last season, there was a rather troubling incident between Rajon Rondo and referee Bill Kennedy, during which Rondo hurled anti-gay slurs at the veteran official after being ejected from a game. Kennedy announced that he was gay in the days following, while Rondo was handed a suspension and forced to issue two separate public apologies.
Rondo, for his part, has insisted that he was unaware of Kennedy’s sexual orientation. Still, Kennedy felt compelled to take a stand against that type of derogatory language, which has no business in any workplace environment. When asked to comment on it just days later, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters that he wasn’t at all surprised, considering the pervasiveness of homophobia in all sectors of society.
But he didn’t stop there. Kennedy was in San Antonio at the AT&T Center that night to officiate a Spurs game, and prior to tip-off Popovich apparently made it a point to walk over to him and deliver a few words of encouragement. Via Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:
As the lights went down for player introductions, Popovich sidled up beside him — telling Kennedy that he chose to walk over in the dark because he didn’t want to make a scene that everyone could witness. “He said, quote, unquote, ‘You have more guts, you have more balls than anybody I know,'” Kennedy says. “‘You have more courage than anybody I know. Now, go out there and kick ass.’ Then he walked away. He didn’t say a word to me for the rest of the game.
It was classic Pop, who continues to remind us that there are far more important things beyond the game of basketball.