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NBA referee Che Flores comes out as trans, first in major US pro sports

Flores is in their second full season with the NBA, which has warmly welcomed Flores’ new revelation.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Sacramento Kings
Che Flores is the first publicly out trans and nonbinary referee in major American pro sports.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Che Flores, an NBA referee, has come out publicly as transgender and nonbinary in a lengthy feature article by Emma Carmichael in GQ.

Flores, who spent most of their life in the Los Angeles area, said they decided to talk publicly about their identity after talking with their NBA officiating colleagues last month. And while they’re sharing their story “to let young kids know that we can exist, we can be successful in all different ways,” it is also so they can feel at peace and focus on their love and commitment to basketball.

From GQ:

“One piece I was missing for myself was that no one knew how I identified,” they say. “Being misgendered as she/her always just felt like a little jab in the gut.” With their identity known, Flores says, “I can go through the world and even my job a lot more comfortably.”

Flores first came out to Monty McCutchen, head of the NBA’s referee training program, last February in a mid-season review call. McCutchen immediately switched how he referred to them, distributed their new pronouns across the league’s officiating operations. By the end of last season, the league and even a game announcer were referring to them as “Che.”

Again, from GQ:

“I got a little emotional and I’m like, ‘Dude, get with it. You’re about to referee a game,’” Flores says, laughing. One of the Denver announcers checked in before the game to double-check their pronouns, and for the first time, players and coaches referred to them as Che on the floor. “It allowed me to be, I guess, free in a way,” Flores says. “I was like, ‘All right, cool. I’m here.’”

While how best to include transgender athletes in sports is a hot-button topic right now, Flores’ role as an official should draw no question marks. Being transgender or nonbinary offers no one anything that could be even perceived as a remote advantage in the world of officiating; No reasonable person could claim any kind of “advantage” or “unfairness” gained on the court.

This is Flores’ second season as an NBA staff official, having worked a dozen games in the 2021-22 season. They’ve also worked 13 seasons in NCAA basketball, including the Pac-12 and Mountain West, and Flores officiated the 2021 women’s NCAA Division I Championship game.

There have been other out LGBTQ officials in the NBA — namely Bill Kennedy and Violet Palmer. There has not been, as far as Outsports is aware, any out transgender or nonbinary referee in any major American sports league.

Be sure to check out the full article about NBA referee Che Flores at GQ.