After nine years of enjoying “one of the best jobs in sports,” Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts resigned Friday.
Welts, who less than four months ago became the first openly gay senior executive of a professional sports team, told the Arizona Republic he is leaving Phoenix to live with his partner in Sacramento.
“The most important thing for me is to get my personal and professional lives better aligned,” Welts said. “They've probably never been aligned. I'm 58 years old and it's time to do that.
"This isn't one of those departures to see greener pastures. It really is completely a personal situation. These guys have been tremendously accommodating and any other inference than that is absolutely crazy.”
Two months ago Welts met with Suns managing partner Robert Sarver to discuss his desire to end his contract nearly 10 months before it is set to expire. His partner has joint custody of two children in Sacramento, which would have made a move to Phoenix to join Welts difficult if not impossible.
Welts admitted there is a connection between this decision and the fallout of his announcement in May.
“This has been an incredibly personally gratifying experience, going through that and reaching a different part of my life where I'm able to share 100 percent of my life with people I work with instead of 95 percent,” Welts said. “There's a great sense of satisfaction and freedom in that. What I'm doing is uncharacteristic of Rick Welts. Leaving one of the best jobs in sports to go figure out what's next is something I never would've done a year ago or five years ago or 10 years ago. Personally, there is a level of confidence and that I can figure it out and the future is going to be terrific. I'm just in a different place.”
Late in the 2010-11 regular season, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for shouting homophobic slurs during a game. The surprise and disgust from the basketball community came as a shock to John Amaechi, a former NBA player who came out after his retirement and has been an advocate for gay athletes.
Before joining the Suns in 2002, Welts worked as president of Fox Sports Enterprises. He began his career in the NBA world as a ballboy for the Seattle SuperSonics in 1969.