Bill Kennedy is an out gay man officiating NBA games. He is scene here wearing the mandatory "Emirates" patch, promoting a government that criminalizes homosexuality. | Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

NBA referees have been required to wear multiple patches supporting Emirates on their uniforms during games since the All-Star Break.

Emirates and the NBA reportedly signed a deal in February making them the official global airline of the NBA and WNBA. Both leagues have a long history of supporting LGBTQ inclusion. The patch of their new partner seems to be a deliberate move to take advantage of increased TV screen time for referees.

Emirates is owned by the government of Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai and the UAE outlaw homosexuality. On LGBTQ rights, Dubai has a score of zero out of 100 from Equaldex. Zero. For context, Nigeria has a score of 4. Saudi Arabia has a 14.

Human Rights Watch says the UAE is a total loss for human rights. On the UAE’s Wikipedia page for LGBT rights, the country has a “red X” through every possible right or privilege for the LGBTQ community.

Same-sex marriage is banned, transitioning genders is banned, homosexuality is potentially punished with imprisonment or worse. 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, but they have put their logo on the chests and sleeves of their referees.

Two of the NBA officials required to wear these patches are gay and trans. Bill Kennedy came out publicly as a gay man a decade ago because he saw homophobia in the league. Che Flores shared their story last year.

In addition, 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.

Che Flores, an NBA referee who is trans, has been forced by the NBA to wear a patch for Emirates, whose parent company criminalizes trans people and gay people. Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

It’s bad enough the NBA and WNBA might have a relationship with this government. But then to put their logo on referees who are actually gay and trans? And who would be imprisoned by said government?

One the one hand, it’s hard to believe. The NBA and WNBA have led the way in American sports for LGBTQ inclusion. Rick Welts, Jason Collins, Kennedy… These men have been trailblazers for gay people in sports.

In the WNBA, at least 20% of the players are publicly out as LGBTQ.

Yet the referees must wear a patch that symbolizes LGBTQ oppression.

The NBA and WNBA are not alone in a partnership with Emirates.

Others across the world of sports include, according to the NBA: the Rugby World Cup, AC Milan, Arsenal FC, Real Madrid, the U.S. Open, Australian Open, French Open and others. Emirates even sponsors officials in other sports, including the FA World Cup, Cricket World Cup and Rugby World Cup.

Yet it’s the NBA that has chosen to put the logo of a country that imprisons gay people on the chest of an out gay man and an out trans person.

Next year, the WNBA will follow suit. How many LGBTQ referees might the WNBA have, given such a large portion of their coaches and players are out?

I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise. The NBA, as well as stars like LeBron James, have a history of talking about “social justice”… then catering to the worst offenders.

Could good come of this for the LGBTQ people living in Dubai and other emirates in the UAE? The NBA has no plans to bring rainbow flags and educational programs to this Muslim country that is still governed in parts by Sharia courts.

Though one benefit of the partnership includes increased funding for the NBA Cares program, the league’s global social responsibility program. To that end, Emirates will serve as the presenting partner of the NBA Finals Legacy Project, which features the dedication of new NBA Cares Live, Learn, or Play Centers and other community based programming in each NBA Finals team market.

That’s at least something positive.

Over time there is the potential for sports partnerships like these to help oppressed gay, lesbian, bi and trans people in the Middle East. That will take an intentional, concerted effort by the league. The league has shown a previous commitment to the LGBTQ community here in the United States. This will be an opportunity to help truly oppressed LGBTQ people in Dubai.

Yet until the NBA and WNBA take those intentional pro-LGBTQ steps with Emirates and its owner, the Government of Dubai, the lasting image of this partnership will be the league placing the Emirates logo on an out gay Black man and an Hispanic trans person.