Rick Welts, the openly gay COO and President of the Golden State Warriors, is profiled in a segment on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” which has its initial airing Tuesday at 10 p.m. EST and is repeated often.
Welts, 65, came out in 2011 while with the Phoenix Suns and later moved to the Warriors, who have won three of the last four NBA championships. Since coming out, Welts has been a role model for other LGBT people in sports administration who can see someone both comfortable with himself and successful.
For decades, Welts navigated the often macho and homophobic sports world by keeping his sexuality private. These days, he doesn’t have to hide. “Real Sports” correspondent Soledad O’Brien first met Welts and his partner, Todd Gage, in 2016. Since then, the Warriors have captured back-to-back NBA Championships, while Welts was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September.
When Welts was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, no one was happier than Warriors coach Steve Kerr:
Rick also represents something much more important than basketball or business success, and that is social advancement. You see, Rick in 2011 became the first executive in any major American sport to announce that he was gay.
His announcement, which I know was difficult and courageous, has helped advance our country’s acceptance that sexual identity is actually unique to each person, and quite normal. There is a reason that the younger generation in our country is growing up with a much more progressive view on homosexuality and gender differences. It’s because people in every field have felt more and more comfortable sharing their stories in order to help others.
The more we realize that we are all just people, with our own identities and circumstances, and that we can all advance in any field no matter race, gender or sexual identity, the better off we all are. But it takes leaders, people in prominent jobs and high places, to help bring that awareness to the world. I am thankful to Rick for making that contribution.
HBO has long been at the forefront of featuring LGBT people in sports and a profile of Welts is a great Thanksgiving present for anyone wanting to know if it’s possible to be openly LGBT in sports.