2011 was a big year for Rick Welts. It was nine years ago, when he was president and chief executive of the Phoenix Suns, that Welts came out as the first openly gay NBA executive. Six months later, he gave up his career to move to San Francisco, to be with Todd Gage, who became his partner of nine years. And not long after that, the Golden State Warriors offered Welts the position of president and chief operating officer, a job he still holds.
2020 looks to be an even bigger year for these men. On Friday, Gage and Welts tied the knot at San Francisco City Hall, with Mayor London Breed officiating, and family by their side.
“It was a good day,” Welts tweeted. “Nine years in the making.”
Gage, a flight attendant according to his Twitter profile, posted details of their wedding on Instagram: “1-10-20.... and the groom wore blue #armani and the groom wore brown #burberry .... @allyson.gage and @santi_gage14 as our witnesses along with Rick’s sister and niece Alexandra.... it was the perfect day for a wedding. Thank you to SF Mayor @londonbreed for officiating and all of your support.”
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1-10-20.... and the groom wore blue #armani and the groom wore brown #burberry .... @allyson.gage and @santi_gage14 as our witnesses along with Rick’s sister and niece Alexandra.... it was the perfect day for a wedding. Thank you to SF Mayor @londonbreed for officiating and all of your support
Messages of congratulations popped up all over social media Friday and throughout the weekend, including from San Francisco 49ers president Al Guido, national sportswriters and Jason Collins, the first and so far only male pro sports player in the U.S. to come out while still actively playing.
Congratulations!!!— Jason Collins (@jasoncollins98) January 11, 2020
Under Welts, the Warriors’ victories include five straight NBA Finals and three championship wins. He’s proven time and time again whom he loves has no bearing on how well he does his job. If anything, as we’ve reported, living authentically has been a positive.
It was about 20 years ago that Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler privately asked Welts why he remained in the closet. Zeigler pondered that question again in a column ten years later, in 2010, without naming Welts. What is apparent from hindsight is that Welts’ coming out did exactly what he told The New York Times he hoped it would do:
“Mr. Welts explained that he wants to pierce the silence that envelops the subject of homosexuality in men’s team sports. He wants to be a mentor to gay people who harbor doubts about a sports career, whether on the court or in the front office. Most of all, he wants to feel whole, authentic.
“‘This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits,’ said Mr. Welts, who stands now as a true rarity, a man prominently employed in professional men’s team sports, willing to declare his homosexuality. ‘Nobody’s comfortable in engaging in a conversation.’”
A year after he came out, Welts told the San Jose Mercury News why he waited so long: “It was just this one part of my life that I kept quiet because I did fear what the consequences would be if I shared that.”
And to this day, Welts remains the only male chief executive in the Big 4 of professional sports in the U.S. to come out as gay. But he’s not the only one in sports management, not by a long shot.
There’s Billy Bean, a VP in Major League Baseball and special assistant to the MLB Commissioner, as well as Dodgers VP of marketing Erik Braverman, and David Baggs, senior manager of the Red Sox Sales Academy, just to name a few men who have come out in recent years in sports management roles.
We send our congratulations to Rick Welts and Todd Gage and hope their wedding day was just the first of many wonderful days ahead! We also hope by their example more closeted people see the benefit of living authentically. We believe Courage Is Contagious.