The NBA Houston Rockets gave Clay Allen quite a birthday present, promoting him to the team’s general counsel and making him one of the highest-profile openly gay executives in pro sports.
Clay Allen, who along with his twin brother Thain — also gay — turns 42 on Sunday, announced the news in a Facebook post:
I got my first job with the Houston Rockets 20 years ago. Part-time position, minimum wage. Today, I’m excited to announce that I’ve been promoted to General Counsel.
This is a dream. I grew up less than a mile from the Rockets home arena. My friends and I used to walk to games in high school. During the championship years, we celebrated on Westheimer with the rest of the City. When I started with the Rockets in 2001, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be able to set up props on the court for a contest. To take Steve Francis to a community event. To plan a Draft Party for Yao Ming. I had no idea what that job would lead to.
All of that seems like a lifetime ago. And in some ways it is. Back then, I was just out of college, living with my brothers in a little apartment, and anxious about the future. But I remember it like it was yesterday. I’m lucky to still work with so many of the same coworkers from those days. We easily fall back into memories of our days at Compaq Center, Houston Comets playoff runs, the first Rockets Run.
I’m proud of the hard work and commitment I’ve put in to earn this promotion. I’m also proud to represent the few LGBTQ+ executives in professional sports. We’ve been talking about the absence of openly gay athletes in men’s sports for years. But there’s also a lack of openly gay professionals in sports. I hope that both of those things change, and I’m looking forward to being part of that movement. Maybe my promotion will signal to the next generation of gay professionals that working in sports is a possibility. There’s room for you here.
I’d like to thank the Fertitta family [Rockets owners] for trusting me in this new role. I’m grateful to Gretchen Sheirr and the rest of the Rockets leadership team for advocating for me. And I’m forever thankful to my friends and family for their support and guidance over the years. The future is bright at Toyota Center, and I am excited to continue to be a part of it!
“I’m super proud of him!” Thain Allen said of his brother in email comments to Outsports. “We both grew up in Houston and grew up big Rockets fans. We lived walking distance to the Summit [then the Rockets arena] growing up. After college I’m the person that actually found an ad for and encouraged him to apply for the part-time Rockets job that he started with.”
Thain, vice president of human resources at Vacations To Go, said he came out at 22 and Clay joined him 10 years later.
Clay Allen had been the NBA team’s associate general counsel since 2013. It’s so important to have out LGBTQ people high up in sports organizations and its wonderful that he acknowledged that in his post. “Maybe my promotion will signal to the next generation of gay professionals that working in sports is a possibility” is so well-said.
Clay Allen can be reached via Linkedin.