The new NBA season is just getting started, and alongside some of the Latine players we’ll be rooting for, there’ll be one particular referee we will also be keeping a very close eye on – Che Flores, who recently came out as the first trans and nonbinary referee in U.S. sports.
Flores, who uses they/them pronouns, was recently featured in a GQ profile, and told the magazine about their decision to come out and the freedom that came with it. “I just feel like just 100 percent myself now, and I just feel so light now moving around, not having to worry about anything,” adding. “Now, “I don’t have to worry about myself not being myself.”
But for Flores, it wasn’t just about that, it was also about who they were as a kid, and the kids who might see them and take inspiration. “I just think of having younger queer kids look at somebody who’s on a high-profile stage and not using it,” they also told GQ. “This is just to let young kids know that we can exist, we can be successful in all different ways. For me, that is most important—to just be a face that somebody can be like, Oh, okay, that person exists. I think I can do that.”
Flores, who was born in Highland Park, Los Angeles, and has a Mexican-American father and a Costa Rican mother, officiated in the WNBA for ten seasons and in the G-League for nine. They also served as a referee in the NCAA for 13 years, officiating the 2021 NCAA Women’s National Championship Game and the Women’s Final Four in 2019.
The upcoming 2023-24 season will be their first as an official NBA referee, though they refereed 12 regular season games as non-staff official during the 2021-2022 season.
That makes Flores essentially a rookie in the NBA, but one that has over 1,000 games and 14 years under their belt. They are also, according to GQ, the first person to work championship games for the NCAA, G League, and WNBA. And, if they keep it up, they could add the NBA to that list.
Flores is, however, not looking for the spotlight. If anything, the whole idea about being open is to stay out of the spotlight. There is no more hiding. Che Flores is who they are. There are no secrets. There is just Che, doing their job.