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Bill Kennedy is one of the most accomplished referees in the NBA, having officiated over 1,000 games across 18 seasons.

Kennedy, right, has a no-doubt extremely measured and polite discussion with Allen Iverson. Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images.


Two weeks ago, Kennedy was on the receiving end of a truly ugly rant from a player who disagreed with a call.

Rajon Rondo. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

After Kennedy ejected Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo from the game, Rondo wheeled on the ref and unleashed a torrent of anti-gay slurs, as first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

"In the game officials’ report used as part of the NBA's investigation — which includes details provided to Yahoo Sports from National Basketball Referee's Association general counsel Lee Seham — Kennedy and fellow referee Ben Taylor described Rondo's post-ejection diatribe as including the statements: "You're a mother------- faggot. … You're a f------ faggot, Billy."

Instead of quietly letting Rondo's outburst blow over, however, Kennedy issued a bold statement: He came out of the closet.

Yes, Kennedy told Yahoo! Sports. I am gay. I'm proud of it. And that matters.

"'I am proud to be an NBA referee and I am proud to be a gay man,' Kennedy told Yahoo Sports on Sunday night. 'I am following in the footsteps of others who have self-identified in the hopes that will send a message to young men and women in sports that you must allow no one to make you feel ashamed of who you are.'"

In a time of amazing gains for LGBTQ Americans, professional sports is one of the few remaining areas where equality is still lagging.

Considering how slow progress has been toward LGBTQ equality and visibility in American pro sports, Kennedy's defiance is remarkable and courageous. According to OutSports, Kennedy is only the third referee employed by any of the major U.S. sports leagues — baseball, basketball, football, and hockey — to come out of the closet.

Gay bashing is still an all too common occurrence in the locker room and on the field. As a result, only one male professional athlete in any of the four major league U.S. sports — Jason Collins — has come out publicly while on an active roster.

Things are changing for the better — but slowly.

Jason Collins played in the NBA for 13 seasons. Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images.

Some professional sports franchises have taken baby steps toward ending the culture of homophobia in sports. Some have begun sponsoring LGBTQ events, despite fan backlash. Others have taken more symbolic steps, like featuring gay couples on the "kiss cam," and putting an end to stadium traditions that cast LGBTQ relationships as punch lines.

It's progress. But we're not there yet.

That's why Kennedy's impassioned response is so important.

Bill Kennedy, showing up Kobe, like you do. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.

The more players, referees, general managers, and owners come out, the harder it will be for even the most resistant athletes to view comments like Rondo's as acceptable. And more young LGBTQ people will feel empowered to become involved in sports and reshape the culture from the ground up.

As Kennedy so eloquently put it:

"You must allow no one to make you feel ashamed of who you are."

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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