Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.
Basketball, 2011. It had been a long time coming for the president of the Phoenix Suns. Having worked in the NBA for decades, Rick Welts had kept his sexual orientation a secret from his colleagues for just as long. When his partner of many years left Welts because he didn't want to be with someone in the closet, Welts began a process to come out to his co-workers, friends and the public. On May 15, 2011, he did just that, revealing to the public for the first time that he's gay.
Last month, in a Midtown office adorned with sports memorabilia, two longtime friends met for a private talk. David Stern, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, sipped his morning coffee, expecting to be asked for career advice. Across from him sat Rick Welts, the president and chief executive of the Phoenix Suns, who had come to New York not to discuss careers, but to say, finally, I am gay.
What Welts found is what virtually every out man in sports has encountered as he came out: People are far more accepting than the general public gives them credit for. Now Welts is making media appearances keeping the dialogue going about homophobia in sports. He's also working with companies like Nike to open them up to opportunities to fight homophobia. All the while his biggest contribution continues to be simply being him: An openly gay president of an NBA team.
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