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."

Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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