Life

Veteran NBA referee Violet Palmer to marry longtime partner

Palmer, who turned 50 in July, said she knew around her middle school years she was a lesbian. She didn’t come out to parents until she was an adult.

Violet Palmer
Memphis Grizzlies coach David Joerger, right, speaks with referee Violet Palmer during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., in 2013. Ben Margot, AP

“If someone asked me, I would tell them,” she said. “But am I going around with the gay flag posted on my forehead? I didn’t feel like it was necessary. But I never hid it.

“I think you just get to a certain point in your life where you go, you know what, it doesn’t matter anymore. I think that’s where I am at that point in my life.”

Palmer and Stine always joked they would marry if they celebrated 20 years together. Once gay marriage was legalized in California — and with that Labor Day weekend anniversary date on the horizon — the couple realized it was time to get hitched. They’ll marry in front of about 130 guests, including several of Palmer’s fellow NBA referees.

She’s feeling the kind of nerves she’s been able to steel herself from when working in front of players, coaches and 20,000 screaming fans.

“It’s a different feeling. This is one of kind of making my life and family complete,” Palmer said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great career and strive for something that’s never been done and was able to do it. They’re both exciting and it adds another component to my life that probably half the world doesn’t even know.”

The couple lives in the Los Angeles area and raised Stine’s three daughters, from a previous marriage, since the start of their relationship.

Stine has long stood with Palmer, even if it meant staying in the background.

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“Most people didn’t know, especially in the sporting world, that I even existed,” Stine said. “Of course, I went to the games. I went with her. She always had her friends that knew who I was.”

Just not the public.

“It was easier to not be (public) so that she could just focus on her job and not have people focus on that aspect of her life,” Stine said. “I think most people were just in awe of her doing the job. You don’t really think, ‘Is she at home cooking or does someone cook her dinner? Or, who is she having dinner with?’ She was the woman in the NBA and that became the thing.”

Palmer soon will walk hand-in-hand with Stine, with a new life ahead, hearing the kind of noise few officials ever do. Cheers.

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