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May 15, 2011 4:59 PM   Subscribe

After being involved with the N.B.A for 40 years, Phoenix Suns President and CEO reveals that he is gay.

Rick Welts began his N.B.A. career as a ball boy and went on design the modern All-Star Weekend. He has been the President and CEO of the Phoenix Suns since 2009. Welts hopes that his coming out allows other gay people to feel comfortable pursuing a career in sports.
posted by arveale (69 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good for him. Eventually, we're going to have an active player come out, but this is getting closer.

Although when I hear about NBA and gay people, I think of George Takei's faaaaaaaabulous PSA about Tim Hardaway.

orthogonality, thank you for making that joke so I don't have to.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:08 PM on May 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


In other news, Phoenix Suns President and CEO Rick Welts announced that he is moving to Tucson.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:10 PM on May 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was curious, so I did a Google Discussions search for the news. A lot of responses are "so what?"

phxsuns.net
prosportsdaily.com
bodybuilding.com


comedy option: freep
posted by codacorolla at 5:15 PM on May 15, 2011


This was really a great story. And big ups to Stern, Nash and Russell for being willing to go on the record in support of their friend.

The NYT story is also a pretty great read.

David Stern really comes out looking great in this, especially in his reaction to the death of Welts' partner.
posted by auto-correct at 5:20 PM on May 15, 2011




Many of the comments on ESPN are pretty vile.
posted by josher71 at 5:30 PM on May 15, 2011


Rick Welts is obscure enough that the OP doesn't bother to include his name in the lead.

"Someone of vaguely high social status is gay! Let's post to Metafilter!"
posted by Yakuman at 5:41 PM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The coming out of the closet thing is getting a bit overdone. By now we realize that in just about any field there are gays and lesbians and transgendered. So this is sport and that makes it different?
posted by Postroad at 5:42 PM on May 15, 2011


Congrats to him. Also, that freep link is amazing.

So this is sport and that makes it different?

Yes.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:44 PM on May 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


That freep link is a whole bucket of hateful crazy. How do people live with so much bile?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:44 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


So this is sport and that makes it different?

Yes. Most definitely. Read the NYT article and consider the difference between Welts having to pretend like his partner didn't die, just to save face in his industry with any other major profession.
posted by codacorolla at 5:45 PM on May 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


This is great. Maybe the walls are going to start to come down. I like this story.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:49 PM on May 15, 2011


The coming out of the closet thing is getting a bit overdone. By now we realize that in just about any field there are gays and lesbians and transgendered. So this is sport and that makes it different?


Well, judging by the comments on the ESPN page, I would say that coming out isn't particularly overdone.

Hell, I don't think that coming out, whether it's in a high-profile job or to your parents and/or friends, is ever overdone.

I think your comment is about you. I don't think it's about the idea of expanding tolerance and understanding to the WHOLE BUNCH OF HOMOPHOBIC FREAKS who still expound the philosophy that being gay is wrong/evil/morally deprived/bad for wall street/etc...

We're aware that you realize that gays and lesbians everywhere. Coming out isn't about you specifically, you know.
posted by gcbv at 5:50 PM on May 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


Sports and the military: last bastions of unabashed homophobia.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:52 PM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Rick Welts is obscure enough that the OP doesn't bother to include his name in the lead.

"Someone of vaguely high social status is gay! Let's post to Metafilter!"
"

Aww. Did you just notice that no one would post if you came out?
posted by klangklangston at 5:56 PM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also: if you're straight, then you basically "come out" all of the time. If you talk about the attractiveness of female actresses, or talk about spending time with your wife, or have a picture of your girlfriend on your desk then you're "coming out" as being straight. The only reason that it's still an issue for homosexual people to do this, instead of a non-issue part of day-to-day life like it is for straight people, is because of the bigotry that they face in society. For as long as that bigotry exists, then high profile people in various fields that are still dominated by a heteronormative atmosphere declaring their sexuality proudly is probably a good thing for other homosexual people who also work in that field.
posted by codacorolla at 5:57 PM on May 15, 2011 [26 favorites]


So this is sport and that makes it different?

Yeah, I found it odd that you would say this. It's clearly a very big deal.
posted by josher71 at 6:00 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Someone of vaguely high social status is gay! Let's post to Metafilter!"

Dude, just take it to Metatalk if it bothers you that much.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:02 PM on May 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Looking at the ESPN page, I'm reminded why I avoid comments sections and listening to sports fans (even though I am certainly the latter). The discussion about how this doesn't matter/isn't news felt even more transparently like a lie when juxtaposed with the direct homophobia on the same page.

It shouldn't be news, sure. Because we should live in a world where Rick Welts doesn't feel the need to be closeted. But, as various athletes have revealed, and as the perennial stereotype of the gay man staring at his fellow athletes in the locker room shows, sport certainly remains a place where homophobia, overt or casual, is tolerated.

I'm glad that he was able to do this and glad that, from the looks of it, the team was supportive, and hope that, within my lifetime, active athletes in major sports are able to come out without it being news or a big deal.
posted by frimble at 6:03 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think I speak for most of us when I say that I hope Free Republic's fund raising is a total failure. Fuck those people.
posted by josher71 at 6:04 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think I speak for most of us when I say that I hope Free Republic's fund raising is a total failure. Fuck those people.

I tried to donate -1,000,000 dollars to it but it didn't let me.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:07 PM on May 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


Good god. When I was 20 years old, way back in 1979, I thought I was a cynic, a curmudgeon and a misanthrope, yet I still felt sure that by the time I was forty no one would have to "come out" or "reveal" they were gay because we would have been long past the stage where anyone thought it was anything worthy of special note, or in any way shocking. I suppose I really should have known that mindless bigotry just isn't ever going to go away.

And that's why I drink. Well, it isn't the only reason, but it's certainly one.
posted by Decani at 6:16 PM on May 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, boy, a thread where I get to talk about how cool I am because I don't care about sports!
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:28 PM on May 15, 2011


So this is sport and that makes it different?

According to the ESPN article, Welts is "believed to be the first man in a prominent position in men's sports who has declared his homosexuality." So yeah.

When John Amaechi became the first-ever NBA player to come out three years after his career ended, he "become the sixth professional male athlete from one of the four major American sports (NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL) to publicly discuss his homosexuality."

This is also occurring within the context of Kobe Bryant being fined for using a gay slur to refer to a referee recently.

Bryant's remarks came the day after Welts' conversation with David Stern, and the same day that Grant Hill and Jared Dudley filmed a PSA for the NBA against hurtful language. Amaechi on Bryant: "I doubt very much when he said that that he thought Bennie was a pile of sticks."
posted by kirkaracha at 6:33 PM on May 15, 2011


Sports and the military: last bastions of unabashed homophobia.

Not coincidentally, the last bastions of "thou doth protest too much" macho-ness, yeah?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:35 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can see why it's hard to understand why this is a big deal. But the NBA is hugely influential; it defines for huge sections of America what it is to be an athlete, to be successful, to be a man other men aspire to. Like other pro sports, the NBA is also 100% straight. To have any person in a position of power from there come out as gay is a huge step and makes it infinitely more likely a player will one day come out as well.

It is worth remembering that for large parts of America's heartland, what softened the HIV stigma even ever so slightly was not the activists, the rallies, the news reports, the AIDS babies, the education or the after school specials. It was Magic Johnson.

The more high profile gay athletes we have, the better the world is. This is one step maybe a little closer, and it wasn't easy for this man. I think more than anything, congratulations and a thank you are due to Rick Welts.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:40 PM on May 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


Good for him. I wish him all the happiness in the world.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:56 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is outstanding.

Anyone who thinks this isn't a big deal needs to pull their head out of their ass and starting living in the real world where daily reports of men and women getting the shit beaten out of them are still being made.

Every person who comes out is a stepping stone toward the day where nobody needs to come out.

Thank you, Rick Welts. This can't have been an easy path for you. I hope you find living life with honesty and honor reaps all the rewards you were hoping when you set foot on this path.
posted by hippybear at 6:59 PM on May 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


I wish him all the happiness in the world.

He has! I mean, he's GAY. That is literally the name of the game.
posted by grubi at 7:00 PM on May 15, 2011


I wish him all the happiness in the world.

He has! I mean, he's GAY. That is literally the name of the game.


Do you have any idea how ignorant you sound when you say things like that?
posted by hippybear at 7:01 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do you have any idea how ignorant you sound when you say things like that?

Do you have any idea what the joke is?
posted by grubi at 7:02 PM on May 15, 2011


Sports and the military: last bastions of unabashed homophobia.

It always amuses me how much more progressive and forward thinking the actual institution of the US Military and its members are compared to much of their fervent civilian boosters & worshippers.
posted by Seiten Taisei at 7:38 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm really glad he's brave enough to speak out in the way he did. I'm really sorry he lives in a world where just being who you are requires that sort of bravery. I hope it makes a positive difference.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:42 PM on May 15, 2011


Am I wrong in thinking that this isn't really newsworthy? Why should someone's sexuality or private personal life have anything to do with what they do for a living? (Barring, of course, someone who was in a position of power and blatantly anti-LGBT and then comes out as a screaming queen and so forth).

I don't pay much attention to sports, and am glad that this guy can stop hiding how he is, but I really don't see how it's a major news story.

At least, I can hope for the day when someone's sexuality is such a minor thing that news organizations no longer feel the need to report on it.
posted by mrbill at 7:43 PM on May 15, 2011


God, I wish I lived in the world where this was a non-story. It must be so nice there
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:46 PM on May 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Am I wrong in thinking that this isn't really newsworthy?

Yes, you're wrong in thinking that.

Why should someone's sexuality or private personal life have anything to do with what they do for a living?

Well, it shouldn't, really. Except for the fact that professional sports are still realms where homosexual slurs are allowed, if not encouraged, and the threat of appearing to be less than manly, i.e. sissy, queer, pansy, etc, is often used to motivate the players toward peak performance.

Imagine a world in which having a sports team coach give their team a pep talk before a big game involved telling them all that they'd better do their best out there on the court or everyone going think they're all hook-nosed kikes.

That equivalent, only directed toward homosexuals, is what happens in locker rooms every day.

As long as that kind of mentality exists in professional sports, well, sports of any level amateur or not, then we're living in a world where 1) gay men are considered lesser beings than straight men, and 2) gay men feel entirely outcast from sports in general (or at the very least can only participate if they remain entirely silent about their sexuality).

That's a horribly unfriendly world to live in on so many levels, and any step that is taken toward eliminating those stereotypes and exclusions is newsworthy, up until the day that it simply doesn't matter anymore.

Sadly, it does still matter.
posted by hippybear at 7:50 PM on May 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


Am I wrong in thinking that this isn't really newsworthy?

Yes.

I don't pay much attention to sports,

The next time there's a post about, say, chess, I'll be sure to chime in with, "WHO GIVES A HOOT? IT'S NOT LIKE *I* KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT CHESS." I bet that would be a good idea.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:51 PM on May 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


Not coincidentally, the last bastions of "thou doth protest too much" macho-ness, yeah?

Haven't been in a board room lately, I take it?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:13 PM on May 15, 2011


And in 1997, [Mr. Stern] and Ms. Ackerman won accolades for their roles in establishing the W.N.B.A.

You know, this is good for all the pure reasons it's good: it's good for Stern that he can now be honest about who he is, that his partner can be remembered for his true role in Stern's life, that young gay athletes and fans have a role model in sports and sports business, etc.

But it also, I hope, will force the sports industry to start to understand why it's good to have somebody other than straight white dudes in front offices. It occurs to people who are not straight white dudes that, you know, not everyone is like them, and there just might be a market for something like the WNBA even if they themselves are not personally interested in it.

At some point we (sports in particular, the world in general) have to confront the idea that you don't let gay people (and women, and gay women, and people of color, and disabled people, and c) come to the table because it's a nice gesture. You do it because they have things of amazing value to contribute.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:15 PM on May 15, 2011


That freep link is a whole bucket of hateful crazy. How do people live with so much bile?

They vent it periodically by taking it out on other people. In comment threads on political blogs, at the voting booth, etc.
posted by darkstar at 8:29 PM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Look, I don't care about sports much, either. But this is news because sports is an important site where masculinity gets defined and communicated to American men and boys. As long as there are no gay men in American sports, that means that the idea persists that being gay isn't compatible with mainstream masculinity. And that's bad, even if you don't care about sports and don't really value mainstream gender roles.
posted by craichead at 8:33 PM on May 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


At least, I can hope for the day when someone's sexuality is such a minor thing that news organizations no longer feel the need to report on it.

Yes, of course. But right now, you see, there's this world that is sort of peppered with homophobes, sexists, and plain mean folks. And maybe you see, right now, every once in a while, someone who is ignorant of compassion, acceptance, and understanding will read a story like this, and maybe SOMETHING WILL CLICK.

Maybe not.

Regardless, your fingers-crossed optimism doesn't nullify the fact that there is bigotry in the here and now, and that I for one consider this "news" that will encourage progression of thought and acceptance, instead of say "what shoes is blah-blah wearing to the Emmys?" type of stories.
posted by gcbv at 8:49 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


So this guy is gay. So what?

Contact me when Lebron and Dwayne get over that whole DL thing and decide to come out. I mean even their names together are just *too perfect*.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:16 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


So this is sport and that makes it different?

The vile comments on the Free Republic post is exactly why this is a big deal. It's a big deal when someone voluntarily comes out, knowing they will be subject to crap like this from strangers around the world:

"Bet he has hours and hours of secret video of the locker room. He personally washes the jock straps."

And the ever so charming: "Just don’t drop the soap when the owner’s around during shower time."

This is what this guy gets and he's not even an athlete. I'd like it to be no big deal that he came out, but as long as there are legions of people ready to spout crap like that, it's going to be a pretty significant step for the sports world whenever anyone steps out of the closet.
posted by zachlipton at 9:23 PM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The vile comments on the Free Republic post is exactly why this is a big deal.

That cesspool makes this cesspool look amazing in comparison.
posted by Neale at 1:16 AM on May 16, 2011


Can we now get some queer eye for Steve Nash's hair? Please?
posted by srboisvert at 3:23 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The coming out of the closet thing is getting a bit overdone.

There's no way to know that until everyone's out of the closet.

Rick Welts is obscure enough

So is Glenn Burke. Doesn't make his story any more acceptable.

Most of these objections are transparent. So is their intent. Snarl off.
posted by Twang at 4:55 AM on May 16, 2011


Postroad: The coming out of the closet thing is getting a bit overdone.

Overdone. In what way? Because it inconveniences you? Because it makes you feel imposed upon enough to jump into a post and chime in your two cents about a topic that makes you feel like yawning? Because it bothers you that people who have lived their entire lives in despair and shame are stepping out of the shame and moving forward with what's left of their lives? Or because it bugs you on some deeper level? I mean, this man is 58 years old and has lived most of his life in a lie, including hiding from virtually everyone he knew the fact that his partner died of AIDS because he was so fearful of the consequences of opening up. And this is 2011. And you still seem to think that "overdone" is a clever turn of phrase in a situation like this.

Give the man a break and get over your biases. Or at least don't view your biases as a license to spout them off in a metafilter thread. What's overdone is the casual, glib, almost offhanded derision in statements like the one you're making.

Yakuman: "Someone of vaguely high social status is gay! Let's post to Metafilter!"

"Someone coming out makes me feel a vague sense of irritation and discomfort! Let's post to Metafilter!"
posted by blucevalo at 5:02 AM on May 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


I live in a relatively progressive city in a relatively progressive country. I often have to remind myself of my duty to keep my knowledge of differing opinions on LGBT, racial and gender equality up to date. Know thy enemy, and all that. So I clicked on the freep link. And now I feel a little sick. Going out for a bit of a walk - and will immerse myself in cat videos when I come back.

I applaud and admire Rick Welts' courage. I am so proud of him and everyone else facing down bigots and bullies at great personal and/or professional cost.
posted by likeso at 6:13 AM on May 16, 2011


rmd1023 - Although when I hear about NBA and gay people, I think of George Takei's faaaaaaaabulous PSA about Tim Hardaway

That's amazing. You know, every single time I see or hear about something that Takei has done, my little straight-guy crush on him gets a bit stronger.
posted by metaBugs at 6:56 AM on May 16, 2011


So Rick Welts is gay, and someone has to ask what's the big deal? WTF? Are you blind? He's a handsome man! Maybe you got different values, but handsome gay men are a big deal to me!

How terrible a thing for him to loose his partner, and have to hide that. I can't begin to comprehend the juxtaposition of that career and then being in that situation. "Big boys don't cry" isn't even half of it. I lost my first partner to an early heart attack, completely unexpectedly. It's like having your heart ripped out by an unsanitary set of barbed claws. But I didn't have to hide anything.
posted by Goofyy at 7:11 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Contact me when Lebron and Dwayne get over that whole DL thing and decide to come out. I mean even their names together are just *too perfect*.

Do you know something we don't, hal_c_on? Or is this just idle speculation on people's sexual orientation?
posted by rocket88 at 7:17 AM on May 16, 2011


Going out for a bit of a walk - and will immerse myself in cat videos when I come back.

This may help.

Disclaimer: This video isn't mine, but it was made by someone who lives in my neighborhood.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:33 AM on May 16, 2011


Considering the rampant homophobia of major sports are there any GLBT organizations that boycott major sports?
posted by Mitheral at 8:42 AM on May 16, 2011


I'm so thankful to live in a society where we argue about the importance of a relatively public/important figure (to some people, even if those people aren't you, calm down) coming out with no apparent prodding. I can't imagine living in a society where I take only two days off after my partner (of any duration, much less 14 years) dies of a devastating illness, where I can't discuss that with anybody in my life, where I have to wait the agonizing weeks alone, in silence to find out whether I also have that devastating illness.

I've been out for over 10 years now, and it's still hard to be completely open and honest even with people I know and trust at work. I've had a partner for 8 years, and I almost never mention him at work unless I know the only people listening are friendly. I know a lot of people on here live in areas where it's no big deal to come out, be out, live your life openly. That's definitely not true in the majority of the US, or in the vast majority of the world. Let's applaud the man for his guts, even if you don't see why it's a big deal. It's a HUGE deal to him, and I'm proud of him for taking that big step, publicly.
posted by This Guy at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Do you know something we don't, hal_c_on? Or is this just idle speculation on people's sexual orientation?

Speculation would mean "yeah, i think its true". This is me saying " the game would be much better if they were involved".
posted by hal_c_on at 12:40 PM on May 16, 2011


Do you know something we don't, hal_c_on? Or is this just idle speculation on people's sexual orientation?

I think he's basically just saying the equivalent of "lol their fags lol.

More on topic, this is a pretty great (and fairly heartening) article about Will Sheridan, former Villanova power forward, who wasn't out as far as the media and general public were concerned during his playing days, but was to his teammates, who apparently just didn't give much of a shit one way or the other.
posted by dersins at 1:01 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think he's basically just saying the equivalent of "lol their fags lol.

Wow. So thats how shit starts.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:26 PM on May 16, 2011


If you make gay jokes, expect to be called out for it.
posted by dersins at 6:32 PM on May 16, 2011








In related news ...

San Francisco Giants To Be First Pro Sports Team To Make 'It Gets Better' Video
"Giants' spokeswoman Staci Slaughter said today that the team already had been thinking of joining the campaign before [gay activist Sean] Chapin started his petition drive, but his efforts speeded things up. She said the exact content of the video, and which if any players or members of the coaching staff will participate, has not been determined.

Originally, the plan was to produce the video for the Giants LGBT Night home game in August, Slaughter said, 'but now we're trying to get it done sooner than later.'

The Giants have a strong gay and lesbian fan base and as an organization has a history of promoting tolerance, she said. In 1994, the Giants became the first team in the majors to dedicate a game every year to AIDS awareness."
posted by ericb at 1:31 PM on May 17, 2011




New York Times interviews New York Rangers forward Sean Avery about his support for marriage equality.

Sports figure are starting to speak out ... and some are coming out. Indeed, there's a way to go, but things are moving forward.
posted by ericb at 1:38 PM on May 17, 2011


I've always thought that if any sport is going to break the gay ceiling, it would probably be baseball first. Football is far too macho overall, and basketball is far too black. (Not making a racist statement there... it's well documented that black gay men have a harder time within their own community than any other gay race group in the US.) Baseball has enough international flavor, and is enough of an "anyone can play this" sort of sport that I've long been expecting we'd hear about gay players there first.

Gay men do love sports. Not just to watch, but to play. Straight Acting is a pretty good documentary about gay men looking for sports leagues in order to build community. Someday, it's going to break into the major leagues. I will celebrate that day, indeed.
posted by hippybear at 1:40 PM on May 17, 2011


This may help.

Heh, thanks Mr. Bad Example. Only just now revisited this thread and saw your niceness. :)
posted by likeso at 3:26 PM on May 17, 2011


If you make gay jokes, expect to be called out for it.

Umm yeah, read my comment, and my comment about my comment. Then read your last comment. You're not only trying to put words in my mouth, but you're pretty bad at garnering outrage when there is none.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:01 PM on May 17, 2011


Am I wrong in thinking that this isn't really newsworthy? Why should someone's sexuality or private personal life have anything to do with what they do for a living?...At least, I can hope for the day when someone's sexuality is such a minor thing that news organizations no longer feel the need to report on it.

Writing this, in this thread, while pictures of the Royal Wedding are STILL on the FRONT page of popular magazines is... ironic.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:12 AM on May 18, 2011


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