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.