Gay NBA referee Bill Kennedy is seen wearing a patch for Emirates Airlines in this photo Source: Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Skepticism Greets NBA Forcing Refs to Wear Patches for State Airline of Anti-LGBTQ+ Dubai

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.

Questions and eyebrows have been raised at the NBA plastering its referees with patches of Emirates Airlines, owned by the anti-LGBTQ+ government of Dubai, which criminalizes queer people, as do other member states of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

"NBA referees must now wear multiple patches on their uniforms supporting Emirates," USA Today reported. "The NBA and the airline reached a deal in February for Emirates to serve as the official global airline of the NBA and WNBA."

The patch, according to OutSports, "seems to be a deliberate move to take advantage of increased TV screen time for referees."

"On the surface, it's a standard deal leagues make all the time," USA Today noted. But look deeper, and doubts appear. "Dubai just might be the most anti-LGBTQ place on the face of the planet," the newspaper added.

OutSports ticked through a number of indicators that suggest just how dire Dubai is for its LGBTQ+ residents.

"Same-sex marriage is banned, transitioning genders is banned, homosexuality is potentially punished with imprisonment or worse," the queer athletics news site listed. "There's no adoption for LGBTQ people, there are no anti-discrimination laws."

"This is the government with whom the NBA has not just signed a deal," OutSports added, "but they have put their logo on the chests and sleeves of their referees" – including two openly queer refs.

"Bill Kennedy came out publicly as a gay man a decade ago because he saw homophobia in the league," OutSports recalled, while trans referee "Che Flores shared their story last year."

Worse is in store, OutSports noted, reporting that "officials across the WNBA will be required to wear the patches starting next year."

"Reminder: The WNBA has many publicly out LGBTQ coaches and players," not to mention, "at least 20% of the players are publicly out as LGBTQ" in the WNBA.

All of this comes as a shock after the "NBA and WNBA have led the way in American sports for LGBTQ inclusion," the site noted.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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