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Welcome Out, Rick Welts

Jim Burroway

May 15th, 2011

Who’s Rick Welts, you ask? He’s the President of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. And in the sports pages of today’s New York Times — which I totally would never have read otherwise — there is a lengthy and touching profile of his decision to come out in an industry that is not at all known for its welcoming attitude towards LGBT acceptance.

…Mr. Welts explained that he wants to pierce the silence that envelops the subject of homosexuality in men’s team sports. He wants to be a mentor to gay people who harbor doubts about a sports career, whether on the court or in the front office. Most of all, he wants to feel whole, authentic.

“This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits,” said Mr. Welts, who stands now as a true rarity, a man prominently employed in professional men’s team sports, willing to declare his homosexuality. “Nobody’s comfortable in engaging in a conversation.”

In 1984 Welts helped to raise the NBA’s profile by creating the NBA All-Star Weekend, and in 1997 he helped to establish the Women’s National Basketball Association. He became President of the Phoenix Suns in 2002.

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Ben In Oakland
May 15th, 2011 | LINK

I’ve been thinking a lot about this.

Part of me wants to praise him for doing it, recognizing that in his prison/closet of a mind, he was taking a major chance. But that is a perfect example of the thoroughly corrosive nature of the closet. You become your own worst enemy. You become your own oppressor. And as his wrecked relationships show, you become the enemy and the oppressor of those you love.

Part of me wants to scream at him. “You’re fifty seven goddamned years old. Why did it take you so long to stop lying to the world about who you really are?” I came out in 1971– that was my public admission, ready to take the consequences. I knew I was gay in 1956.

But then the real truth hit me.

He didn’t finally come out. He’s been out socially for years. He finally grew a pair, manned up, and decided to do what was right, rather than what was comfortable.

He deserves praise and thanks for that. But like a lot of other people who enjoyed the benefits of other people’s sacrifices while sacrificing nothing of his own (except his relationships), he has a great deal to atone for.

I hope he does so.

Kate
May 15th, 2011 | LINK

His friends and close acquaintances in the sports world may have known, but all it would have taken to make his life and career hell was a reporter looking for a story…I’ve read the biographies of some of pro sports’ big names who came out after they retired, and just trying to stay under the radar of the press was a constant pressure in their lives. It sounded like a miserable way to live, but it was part of what they had to do to continue to play, given the probable response from both teammates and management.

I’m glad he found supporters in the NBA who said they would support him, or at least not distance themselves from him. And I’m glad he says he wants to be a role model or mentor for gay athletes in professional sports. I’m just not sure how that could work…how could he really help a professional athlete who is right now trying to decide how to balance his/her professional and personal life?

I’m not trying to downplay the importance of his decision – it says a lot about the NBA that the management is willing to express support rather than go into damage control mode. But I’m still waiting for a currently playing, actively participating professional athlete to prove that his or her athletic skill and team contributions are more important to their sport, their management and their fans to take that step out of the closet.

Ben In Oakland
May 15th, 2011 | LINK

Kate– that, too.

Regan DuCasse
May 15th, 2011 | LINK

I can certainly defer experience and what the closet does and means to my gay friends and learn from what they have to tell.
I think what bothers me more, is the hypocrisy surrounding the behavior that’s accepted in men’s sports. The violence and assaults on women. The adultery and drug use, to say nothing of just plain old fashioned crimes and misdemeanors that are allowed to inflate the fat egos in that industry.

They are more accepting of felonious behavior, than they are of gays and lesbians who don’t and wouldn’t commit such things. Or, if they did, they wouldn’t accept it. Might use it as a vehicle of outing.
Ridiculous

Rob in San Diego
May 15th, 2011 | LINK

Way to go bro, welcome to the club!

daftpunkydavid
May 15th, 2011 | LINK

oh my oh my oh my:

“He deserves praise and thanks for that. But like a lot of other people who enjoyed the benefits of other people’s sacrifices while sacrificing nothing of his own (except his relationships), he has a great deal to atone for.

I hope he does so.”

i mean, really? who are you to say that “he has a great deal to atone for”? get off your high horse, geez. he doesn’t owe you anything.

Ben In Oakland
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

He doesn’t owe me a thing.

He owes it to every kid who thought about committing suicide, every athlete who decided not to compete because she was gay, every queer that lost a job because they weren’t protected by the privileged hypocrisy of the closeted, every boy (and I was one of them) who got beat up because they were perceived to be a little bit different.

It took me about two years after I came out in 1971 to understand that this was about far more than what makes Private Johnson snap to attention.

I don’t care whether he atones or not. That’s his business, though i hope he does. My own sense of justice and morality tells me that it is the only thing to do.

As I said, ““You’re fifty seven goddamned years old. Why did it take you so long to stop lying to the world about who you really are?”

Ben In Oakland
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

Here’s what don lemon had to say on This Very Subject:

“There was a time when I was terrified of revealing these things to the person I love most in this world – my own mother. But when I finally mustered the courage to tell her that I had been molested as a child and that I was born gay, my life began to change in positive ways that I never imagined possible. Yet I still chose to keep those secrets hidden from the world. I, like most gay people, lived a life of fear. Fear that if some employers, co-workers, friends, neighbors and family members learned of my sexuality, I would be shunned, mocked and ostracized. It is a burden that millions of people carry with them every single day. And sadly, while the mockery and ostracizing are realized by millions of people every day, I truly believe it doesn’t have to happen and that’s why I feel compelled to share what I’ve written in Transparent”

Timothy Kincaid
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

Perhaps it took him so long to come out because he just didn’t have the courage to face a bunch of people screaming “Why didn’t you come out sooner

I’m kidding, of course, but really, is that the first thing you want to hear when you take a step towards openness? Do we really want people like this to unexpectedly find support from the homophobic sports world but find rejection and recrimination from us?

This hardly is encouragement for anyone else out there wondering if just maybe they should follow his lead.

C’mon guys. I’m sure that Welts will beat himself up enough for not facing his fears. At this point in his life, our role is to be supportive and help him through this phase. Once his life has stabilized, we can pressure him to make up for lost time. Give him space.

Jennifer
May 16th, 2011 | LINK

I’m disgusted with the sexist terminology
(“grew a pair, manned up”). Equating courage with male anatomy or maleness is as offensive as using “gay” as a derogatory term.

Mark
May 17th, 2011 | LINK

Hey Ben in Oakland (no wonder),

Dont be such an ass. We all have different circumstances, and different reasons for doing different things. “what took him so long”, you ask. “I came out in 1971″ – or whenever you did (century’s ago, it appears from your ignorant reply- who cares about YOU? That was YOUR decision. It’s nobody elses! Dont be so ignorant as to assume that because you came out, everyone needs to. That is such bull, so hypocitical, so shortsightedness. Give me a break. Oh, because I did – you have to. Shut teh FCUK up! idot from Oakland…jeeze…

Ben In Oakland
May 17th, 2011 | LINK

Politeness, like good spelling, is a virtue.

Name calling is not.

I’m also quite well aware of your points, and believe it or not, I agree with them, though not with your spelling or your name calling.

Mine is simply this. The enemy is and always has been the closet, not people. The closet is where some people get their power to cause other people to cower in the closet. The closet is what enables depression, suicide, blackmail, and every other social ill associated with it. The closet is corrosive to human health and happiness.

I agree with Timothy. Give him some space to do more of what is right. I just hope he does.

I quite firmly believe that barring a threat to one’s physical safety, coming out is always the healthier option. I came out at a time when it was not safe to do so– centuries ago, as you say. Quite possibly before you were born.

I put my ass on the line, so that you could do what you want with yours. It cost me a couple of jobs, a few attempts to get me fired from jobs, and what little relationship I had with my family, perhaps a few friendships when I was young, a thousand ages gone.

And I don’t regret any of it. I regret the kids who have been beaten up or who committed suicide. I regret the marriages that were failures from thre get-go. I regret the kids and adults that have learned to hate themselves to please the bigots and their equally bigoted small-g god. I regret the careers that have ended. I regret the millions and millions, if not billions, that have been spent attacking people who have harmed no one.

And on and on and on.

I regret all of it. What do you regret?

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