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Adam Silver says suspending Rajon Rondo one game for anti-gay slur 'attracts attention'

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The NBA commissioner detailed why a monetary fine wasn't enough for the Kings point guard.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

NBA commissioner Adam Silver believes that suspending Rajon Rondo one game for allegedly directing a gay slur at referee Bill Kennedy during a Dec. 3 game in Mexico City was a fair and fitting punishment.

"The step from a financial penalty to a suspension, to me, was one that we knew would attract attention," Silver said in an interview on Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski's podcast, which was posted Wednesday morning. He later added: "I don't think we should be making examples out of anyone. I think that's why the Players Association exists, as a check on authority of the league."

Silver added that he believed Rondo would be punished by the public.

"I think that part of the discipline for Rondo in a circumstance like this comes in the court of public opinion," he said, "and that's something that he has to deal directly with."

Rondo was first suspended last Friday for what the NBA called using a "derogatory and offensive term" towards an official. On Monday that official, Bill Kennedy, revealed in a statement to Yahoo! Sports that he was gay. Yahoo! Sports also reported that Kennedy and another game official had indicated in their incident reports that Rondo had used the word "f*****" while yelling at Kennedy.

It is unclear if Rondo was previously aware of Kennedy's sexual orientation. He also reportedly denied the allegations to the NBA and his spokesperson declined comment to Yahoo! Sports. Rondo, instead, issued a statement on Twitter.

Rondo, however, was criticized by many for not actually apologizing for his actions. The next day he put out a second statement.

"Some have interpreted my comments as a non-apology," Rondo said. "I want to be clear, from the bottom of my heart that I am truly sorry for what I said to Bill. There is no place on or off the court for language that disrespects anyone's sexual orientation. That is not who I am or what I believe and I will strive every day to be a better person."

Silver said he and league officials considered a number of factors before suspending Rondo, from league precedent to Rondo's history. He noted that both Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah have been fined in the past for using gay slurs during games. But this instance he said was different because the slur was directed at a gay man, though Silver did add that he was also unsure if Rondo knew beforehand that Kennedy was gay.

Silver also added that he was aware of the public commentary that a one-game suspension was too lenient, but said that under "under the circumstances" he felt "one game was appropriate."

Another concern Silver admitted to was making Kennedy's sexual orientation part of the story. He was worried that an excessive suspension, following a week of investigation, would lead to questions and speculation that at the time he didn't want.

"While Bill Kennedy was known to be gay by many people in the league, Bill Kennedy had never made that very, very personal decision to publicly come out and announce to the world that he was a gay NBA referee," Silver said. "My view, we made the decision to suspend Rondo for one game on Friday, Bill Kennedy's decision to become public about being gay was not made until Monday, and he did not talk to me until Sunday to tell me he had made that decision.

"It did not seem appropriate to me that I should, by virtue of a bad act by Rajon Rondo, out Bill Kennedy."