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Something To Cheer About: Phoenix Suns President Announces He Is Gay

It was great to see this New York Times article yesterday. Well, maybe "great" is a strange word to use in this circumstance. How about "bittersweet" or "about time" or just plain "sad"? I'd agree with any of those.

My partner and I were watching Mad Men Season 1 for the first time this past week and laughing at Sal, the art director, and his awkward, confused and heartfelt stumbling about 1960s Manhattan as a gay man struggling with who he is and what that means. It's funny, in part, because of how obvious it is that he is gay and how oblivious everyone is around him.

It's "obvious" because many of us in the audience have had plenty of gay friends and co-workers and we're no longer conditioned to assume everyone is straight. So we get to be in on the "joke".

(BTW: We've only watched the first few episodes of Season 1, so please, no spoilers.) 

So it was with mixed emotions that I read the story of Rick Welts this morning. He's the President of the Phoenix Suns, formerly the VP of Marketing for the NBA (he created the All-Star weekend, including the slam dunk contest), helped co-create the WNBA and was the PR Director of the Seattle Supersonics when they won their title in 1979.

I had never heard of Rick before today, but it quickly became apparent how important he has been to the league I enjoy so much. And just as quickly I read about how much he has suffered personally because of the very real fear he faced in being honest about his sexuality. Rick lost a partner to AIDS and had to face it alone, then he lost a long-term relationship because he wouldn't come out publicly.

Suddenly, Sal doesn't seem quite so funny anymore.

 

I'm proud of Rick. I was already a Suns fan, but I'm even more of one now.

I hope he won't suffer even more by coming out now, I hope that in David Stern's words "the world will find this unremarkable" and that more executives and athletes and coaches will come out in the years to come. But those are hopes and unlike the Commissioner, I don't think that is likely to be reality any time soon.

But each person who steps forward brings that reality a little closer. Thank you, Rick.

 

P.S.

I'm a straight man, who loves sports and thinks a gay man can be a great Point Guard, Power Forward, Defensive Lineman or Head Coach. I'm going to evaluate you on how well you play the game and your win/loss record, but if you can pass, score, rebound and not turnover the damn ball!, then I'd like you on my team.

Same goes for women and girls: I was a big Minnesota Gopher women's basketball fan when I lived in Minnesota.

My philosophy on all of this is pretty simple: I want to see the best players play, the best coaches coach, the best leaders be executives and I don't care about age, sexuality, gender or race. I care about talent and ethics and efficiency. That's all.

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