Rick Welts, a longtime executive in the NBA and now the president of the Golden State Warriors, has been openly gay since 2011. He told league owners last week that he would not feel comfortable going to the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte with North Carolina having passed an anti-LGBT law.
An article in USA Today has suggested that Welts' words influenced owners, who agreed to move the game in light of HB2 being on the books. The newspaper spoke to three people who heard Welts address the Las Vegas meeting last week and his words were called understated and powerful.
Welts, 63, whose promotional ideas helped revitalize All-Star weekend, told the owners his saga as a gay man coming to terms with his sexuality and finally coming out publicly in 2011.
He wanted those in the room to know his full perspective.
He then said if the All-Star Game remained in Charlotte, he wouldn't feel comfortable attending, and he said he has spoken to employees in the LBGT community from half of the league's teams who didn't feel comfortable attending either.
His words weren't emotional, and they weren't delivered as a threat. But Welts, who was instrumental in shaping All-Star weekend into the big-time event it is today, didn't plan on attending if the North Carolina law wasn't repealed or changed.
Welts, who doesn't want to be viewed as the hero or key figure in this, was adamant he wasn't telling the league what it should do. It was just his story, his point of view.
Following the meeting, a few owners talked, and a prevailing message emerged: If Rick Welts doesn't feel comfortable coming to the All-Star Game, the decision to relocate just got easier.
This, in a nutshell, is why it's important for people to come out in sports. Had Welts been closeted, there is no way he would have had the confidence to face the owners and let them know that North Carolina's law is a personal affront to him and other LGBT NBA employees, and that holding the All-Star Game in Charlotte would be a tacit approval of HB2.
We need gay people at levels in sports to come out. I understand all the caveats that not everyone is ready and that for some it would be detrimental. But for the majority, there would be no negatives and only serve to show that we are everywhere. Welts is living proof of this.