Courage: 1, Homophobia: 0

Rick Welts is one of the most respected executives in all of professional sports. Rick is known for his intelligence, his creativity, his character and a lack of ego so common in high ranking sports executives. Today, in a high profile NY Times piece (http://nyti.ms/kgjrzt), Rick let the world know that something else separates him from of his contemporaries. Rick Welts is gay.

To some people that know Rick, this news may not come as a surprise. To some, including me, the news is worthy of celebration. Few of us can imagine what it might be like to live a life in which we would have to shelter something fundamental to our individual makeup, especially in an industry in which homophobia is sadly alive and well. I am thrilled that Rick and others who will surely follow him can now enjoy the rest of their lives without the burden of secrecy. Of course there will likely be bumps in the road. This announcement comes in the same month that Kobe Bryant called someone a “fXXXot”. I imagine Rick will receive overwhelming support from most of his friends and coworkers. People as admired and respected as Rick are often overwhelmed by the love and support that comes their way in times of challenge. But Rick made this announcement knowing that homophobia is still an issue, especially in pro sports. It’s a sobering reminder that while we’ve made progress in the areas of racial and religious discrimination in the US, gays and lesbians still must endure cruelty, judgement and secrecy.

When I first started in the sports industry, I didn’t know anyone. And as BDA was a small company with a very limited roster, I didn’t have much to offer anyone. Yet Rick treated me with kindness and respect from day one. We developed a friendship that seems to be rare these days. He’s helped me learn the ropes and shared with me knowledge and wisdom that allow me to do a better job everyday. He is a mentor and a friend, and someone I admire greatly for his character, intelligence, loyalty and honesty. Now I’ll add courage to the list. Bravo, Mr. Welts.

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About Bill Sanders

SVP of Personal Brand Management at PMK*BNC. Helping icons from all walks of life to connect with their fans and monetize their brands.
This entry was posted in Sports Business, Sports Marketing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Courage: 1, Homophobia: 0

  1. Melanie Auguste says:

    With the recent stories about the Suns CEO, Rick Welts, and the former Villanova Basketball Player, Will Sheridan, and now the Giants action to launch an anti-homophobia campaign, I now have the question about the profitability of targeting LGBT markets for professional sports.

    Is there a big market for the athlete that decides to come out while still playing? And could it result in significantly more profitability for not only the player but the sport?

    4.3 Million people in the United States that are self reported LGBT. It is likely that number is higher. If there is an average of 2 supporters per 1 self reported LGBT person, now that is an additional 8.6 Million people. That is potentially 12.9+ Million people that could be emotionally invested in the player and the team.

  2. Bill Sanders says:

    Thanks Melanie. Candidly, I think team marketers do leave some money on the table because they don’t target the LGBT community. The WNBA has done some targeting, and I’m told they are more assertive towards that group than in the past. I think too many marketers are still too nervous to approach the group, which is a shame. I think Rick’s announcement is making major headway and opening up the dialogue. I’m an optimist and I think we’re headed in the right direction. Ultimately, the LGBT is an educated, affluent and active consumer group. They shouldn’t be ignored.

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