(This story was published in 2007).
David Klotz is an openly gay man working in the front office of Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids. He's never hidden his identity there, never had a problem, and can't understand for the life of him why more people aren't out in sports.
"I read these stories all the time about coaches worried because they want to come out, and I think, if our team is anything like other professional teams, I just can't imagine why people are afraid to come out," Klotz told Outsports. "I've always been well-received here by the team and by the administration. It just surprises me that there aren't more out people in sports."
Klotz, 33, is the manager of premium seating and customer service for the Rapids at their home stadium, Dick's Sporting Goods Park. As such, he handles season-ticket accounts and game-day public relations issues and also handles suits, luxury boxes and club-level seating for the park's top-level team, the Rapids. The Park is the world's largest soccer complex with 24 full-size soccer fields surrounding an 18,000-seat stadium. The complex is a public-private partnership between Kroenke Sports Enterprises and Commerce City, the former of which is Klotz's employer. Kroenke also owns the NHL's Avalanche and NBA's Nuggets.
Klotz started with the team as an usher (or, as the team likes to say, he worked in guest relations) because of his "love for soccer, the love for the team," Klotz said. "Even before I was an employee, I was a season ticket holder. There was this woman running around on the field one day and I thought, God I'd love to have a job like hers some day. And I ended up doing the same sort of thing. I do it to be part of something bigger than myself, and for love of the sport."
Growing up in Crescent City, Calif., and going to local College of the Redwoods, Klotz played soccer and watched what few matches could be found on television. To this day, he is an Arsenal fan because it was one of the very few teams he could watch play on TV 15 to 20 years ago. "Honestly, when I was a kid I liked their uniforms," Klotz said. "You can't go wrong with a cannon," which is on the Arsenal crest.
He's been openly gay since college and has never hidden his sexuality during his tenure with the Rapids. After serving as an usher for a year, he was offered a full-time job with the organization. He took the job and very quickly asked about same-sex domestic partner benefits.
"I think that was the first clue for everyone," Klotz said.
A bit to his surprise, his boss didn't bat an eye; and, in fact, they did offer those benefits. However, it was a while before he had someone with whom to share those benefits. His relationship with his partner of four years, Brian, is an "Internet success story." He was working the day after Christmas several years ago and got a random instant message on Yahoo. Four years later, they're committed to one another and living together. Klotz's love of sports has even rubbed off on Brian, who attends soccer and hockey games with Klotz and now even sits with him on weekends in the autumn to watch football.
Best of all, the team has taken to Brian as well as they have to Klotz himself. "He always has a good time," Klotz said, "players receive him well. We've never had an issue."
Klotz has become close with some of those players. "They don't even shake a stick about [my sexuality]," he said, not intending the salacious pun. "I've gotten to know quite a few of our players over the years and not one of them has had an issue with it. I have a few friends on the team. We go out, hang out, do things together."
He said he hasn't been able to get them to a gay bar as of yet, but he does tease them about coming out. It's that comfort level they have with him that helps make him feel like he's truly an accepted part of the team.
When pressed for a negative experience with the team, Klotz did have one experience that he classified more as "learning" than bad. One day a couple years ago he went into the locker room after a game, as he had many times before, to get something autographed for one of the season-ticket holders. One of the team administrators, upon seeing Klotz, closed the curtain that separates the shower room from the rest of the locker room. Klotz immediately confronted him about it and asked him why he did that. The administrator told Klotz he didn't want the guys to feel uncomfortable.
"I told him, 'They wouldn't have been uncomfortable if you hadn't pointed out some uncomfortableness,'" Klotz recalled.
The administrator apologized, the curtain opened back up, and that was the one and only time he was made to feel uncomfortable on the team because of his sexuality. In fact, he is using his connection with the gay community to help bridge the gap between gays and sports. Three years ago he worked with the ticket sales office to create a "Pride Day," which is taking place again this year Aug. 11 against the Houston Dyanmo.
"We haven't had great attendance," Klotz said, "but it is growing and this year we hope to make it really successful."
Going forward, Klotz has hopes of being a general manager or managing director for a team. One thing's for sure: He won't go back in the closet to get there.