Rick Welts, the Phoenix Suns executive who announced that he is gay in a story in the New York Times, said he has found the response to his story to be overwhelming — and overwhelmingly positive.
“It was incredibly gratifying and pretty emotional,” Welts told the Associated Press on Monday. “People who had read the story when it went up online wanted to just reach out and give me a hug.”
Welts, 58, said one goal was to “engender conversation about the topic, which is not discussed in our industry. The other was if there was a chance to do some good for people, young people, who are struggling with their own issues and wondering whether or not they could pursue their passions and have a chance to have a successful career, whether that was team sports or something else.”
Welts is an NBA lifer, helping create among other things, the NBA All-Star Weekend and the WNBA. He is widely respected and well-known throughout the league and his announcement comes at an interesting time — for the NBA and for sports. Late in the regular season, one of the NBA’s pre-eminent players, Kobe Bryant, was fined $100,000 for homophobic slurs and John Amaechi, a gay former NBA player, said he was surprised by the surprise over Bryant’s comments.
Welts’s announcement wasn’t earth-shaking, even in Arizona. Robert Sarver, the Suns’ owner, told the AP that the announcement was “pretty much a non-event” for the franchise. For former players, like Charles Barkley, and active athletes like Sean Avery and Steve Nash, this is just no big deal.
“First of all, every player has played with gay guys,” Barkley told Mike Wise, in an interview on his 106.7 radio show. “It bothers me when I hear these reporters and jocks get on TV and say, ‘Oh, no guy can come out in a team sport. These guys would go crazy.’ First of all, quit telling me what I think. I’d rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can’t play.”
Avery, the New York Rangers enforcer, recently filmed an ad for equal-marriage rights for gays and Nash spoke out in support of Welts.
“I think it’s a shame, for all the obvious reasons, that this is a leap that he has to take. Anyone who’s not ready for this needs to catch up,” Nash said. “He’s doing anyone who’s not ready for this a favor.”