When Rajon Rondo wanted answers, Sacramento’s point guard pursued Bill Kennedy across the court, shouting what the NBA termed a “derogatory and offensive” term at the veteran referee in a chest-to-chest showdown that required intervention from his teammates.
But when it came time for Rondo to provide the answers? He turned tail, ducking from the media at Kings practice on Monday and opting to issue a pair of generic tweets after Yahoo Sports reported that he directed profanities and gay slurs at Kennedy, who has since revealed that he is gay.
“My actions during the game were out of frustration and emotion, period!” Rondo wrote on Twitter. “They absolutely do not reflect my feelings toward the LGBT community. I did not mean to offend or disrespect anyone.”
No apology. No direct, specific admission of what he said. Somehow, a floor general blessed with extraordinary vision continues to reveal a massive blind spot when it comes to basic decency.
Rondo’s thin explanation leaves all of the important questions unanswered. Yahoo’s report indicated that Rondo denied the accusations to the NBA, leveled by multiple referees, that he referred to Kennedy as a f----t in a profanity-laced tirade that occurred during Sacramento’s loss to Boston in Mexico City on Dec. 3.
- What, exactly, is Rondo’s version of the events? What does he think he said? What “actions” is he referring to and why would the LGBT community take offense to them?
- If the report about his statements to Kennedy is accurate, and the NBA’s investigation and subsequent suspension suggest that they are, is Rondo sorry for what he said?
- Does Rondo understand that hurtful words have the power to inflict serious pain?
- Does Rondo feel an obligation to set an example for his younger fans?
- Does Rondo plan to reach out to Kennedy?
Rondo’s Twitter posts—“frustration and emotion” and “no offense intended”—aren’t going to cut it in light of these circumstances. They don’t offer clarity, they don’t offer closure, and they certainly don’t exhibit true remorse.
The Kings may or may not understand those shortcomings. Later Monday, owner Vivek Ranadive and GM Vlade Divac acknowledged in a statement that Rondo made a “disrespectful and offensive” comment. The joint statement claimed Rondo has apologized—an apparent reference to his Twitter messages—while also offering an apology from Ranadive to Kennedy.
That statement only made the situation more confusing. It shouldn’t be too much to expect one of the league’s most dysfunctional franchises to get its story straight.
Remember, the game in question took place 11 days ago. The NBA’s investigation dragged on for more than a week—its results weren’t announced until after Rondo and the Kings played on TNT last Thursday, by the way—and the formal suspension didn’t come until Friday afternoon. Three days passed between the suspension and Kennedy’s announcement. Hours passed between the announcement and Rondo’s Twitter posts. The Kings had sufficient time to review Rondo’s non-apology before issuing their statement.
Rondo clearly can’t play the “caught off guard” card. He can’t play the “I was trying to pull together the right words” card. Unfortunately, he can’t even play the “I didn’t know what to say” card, because his statement is strikingly similar in nature to the one offered by Lakers guard Kobe Bryant following his own gay slur controversy in 2011.
Simply put, Rondo had an opportunity to come clean during the league’s investigation, he had all the time he needed to think things through, and yet he still chose to let a brewing public relations storm go unchecked for most of Monday rather than owning up to his alleged behavior. He still chose not to make a clear apology the first thing that came out when he opened his digital mouth. He still chose to run and hide.
That last part isn’t really all that shocking. Rondo ran out on the Mavericks during the 2015 playoffs, quitting on the court and then bailing on his postgame interview during an ugly Game 2 loss to the Rockets. That behavior obviously exists on a totally different moral plane than his exchange with Kennedy, but both times Rondo responded to adversity of his own making in the same way: he bolted.
By running, Rondo left his teammates, his coaching staff, his front office and his organization out to dry. He brought a distraction and controversy to a franchise that offered him a second chance. Worst of all, he let his hateful words hang in the air for all to hear again and again.
There’s no downplaying this mess with the typical excuses—that Rondo is merely “misunderstood” or “stubborn” or “enigmatic.” The truth is the same in Sacramento as it was in Dallas. The “pure point guard” label and impressive assist tallies mask a much harsher reality: Rondo has repeatedly shown that he will put himself first, regardless of who he hurts or offends along the way.
But it would be a mistake to allow the justified frustration over Rondo’s actions and response to overshadow Kennedy’s poise, both on the court and in the incident’s aftermath. While his very identity was being ridiculed, Kennedy first attempted to defuse the situation but, once things escalated past the point of no return, he held his ground. Then, on Monday, he took a very public, very difficult stand.
Hopefully Rondo was able to catch a glimpse of his target’s courage before he fled the scene.