It’s been quite the weekend for coming out of the closet: the highest ranking executive in the National Basketball Association is gay. Rick Welts, the 58-year old President and CEO of the Phoenix Suns, shocked the NBA when he came out as gay on Sunday.
The New York Times again has the scoop, and it’s quite unbelievable that Mr. Welts suffered in silence during these many decades.
He did not want to sacrifice his career for his personal life, never bringing a significant other to sporting events and even going so far as continuing his silent suffering after losing his long-term partner, Arnie, to AIDS in 1994. “That was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do,” Welts said. “Walking into the office and trying to explain why I needed to be gone a couple of days. Nobody should have to go through that.”
Welts continues, in the NY Daily News:
This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits. Nobody’s comfortable in engaging in a conversation.
I thought, there might be some young people out there who was in the same position I was, who love team sports … but are afraid.
If by telling my story, if even just a few young people are encouraged to follow their passion and have a successful career, then it will have been worth it.
But why now? I wrote recently that it’s about time for a discussion of homophobia in sports, and was thankful for Todd Reynolds’ anti-gay tweets for catalyzing the discussion. Sports is the last haven for homophobia, and breaking down these barriers will do more to change hearts and minds than anything else in America.
Getting straight men comfortable with gay people is essential. We will not try to convert you, will not try to have sex with you, and you should not be called gay just for hanging out with us. Many gay people enjoy athletics, and even (gasp) play and watch sports. It’s exciting to see the beginnings of more acceptance in the testosterone-fueled world of sports.