Michael Spencer is a legend in the world of action-sports agents. He has represented some of the most successful athletes, including Olympic champions and one Gus Kenworthy. He’s been with Kenworthy since the early days of the star skier’s career.
This week he joins Outsports’ Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast to talk about how he “stumbled” into representing world-class skiers, and why he — a straight man — has been so passionate about elevating Kenworthy and supporting him through his coming-out process.
Spencer shares the journey he went through with Kenworthy as he watched his client suffering from something and not knowing exactly what. As Kenworthy came out to him, little did he know his agent had a gay brother and was very ready and willing to support him however he could.
Yet even after coming out to Spencer, Kenworthy was still publicly silent about being gay. Even as Kenworthy was becoming America’s darling — winning Olympic silver and saving dogs in Sochi — Spencer watched his client and friend sink into depression, his performance on the slopes suffering.
When Kenworthy approached Spencer about coming out publicly, Spencer opened his eyes to doing something big, to tell his story as a gay athlete at the top of his sport to help further conversations and inspire others.
That led to the cover of ESPN The Magazine and one of the biggest coming outs in men’s sports to that time.
Spencer also gives insights into the use of language that may sound homophobic, but that isn’t intended by athletes to be. He said as Kenworthy came out, other athletes changed their language realizing exactly what they had been saying and the impact it could have on their fellow skier.
“When Gus did come out, all of a sudden everyone realized what they were saying,” Spencer said, “and everyone started to change their way. And that was really cool.”
A managing director at One Sports and Entertainment Group, Spencer now represents two other gay athletes, including Olympic speed skating hopeful and US Champion Conor McDermott-Mostowy and aspiring race car driver Zach Herrin. And he offers sage advice to any gay athlete whose agent tells them to stay in the closet.
“I’d tell that athlete to fire that agent, right away,” Spencer said. “I think that’s the worst thing you could ever do. If you’re struggling with it and someone’s telling you don’t come out they obviously have no idea what you’re going through.”
You can listen to the conversation with Michael Spencer on the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast on Megaphone, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple podcasts and many more platforms. Just search for Outsports wherever you get your podcast.
And be sure to follow Five Rings To Rule Them All on Twitter.
You can find Michael Spencer at One Sports + Entertainment Group, and on Instagram. His out clients are also on Instagram: skier Gus Kenworthy, speed skater Conor McDermott-Mostowy & race car driver Zach Herrin.