Monday, May 16, 2011

NBA's Phoenix Suns President Rick Welts Comes Out

Phoenix Suns President/CEO, Rick Welts
Breaking the code of silence in professional sports, Phoenix Suns president Rick Welts came out publicly in the New York Times on Sunday and shared the story of his closeted forty year career.

Welts told the Times, “This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits. Nobody’s comfortable in engaging in a conversation.”

Welts has had a long and close friendship with NBA Commissioner David Stern, who says he always knew Welts was gay, but never felt comfortable broaching the subject. Welts has been out to his parents and sister for many years. Here's an excerpt in which Welts talks about being unable to express his grief after the loss of his partner to AIDS:

In March 1994, his longtime partner, Arnie, died from complications related to AIDS, and Mr. Welts compartmentalized his grief, taking only a day or two off from work. His secretary explained to others that a good friend of his had died. Although she and Arnie had talked many times over the years, she and her boss had never discussed who, exactly, Arnie was.
Around 7:30 on the morning after Arnie’s death, Mr. Welts’s home telephone rang. “It was Stern,” he recalled. “And I totally lost it on the phone. You know. Uncle Dave. Comforting.”
Even then, homosexuality was never discussed — directly.
For weeks, Mr. Welts walked around the office, numb, unable to mourn his partner fully, or to share the anxiety of the weeklong wait for the results of an H.I.V. test, which came back negative.
Sometime later, he began opening the envelopes of checks written in Arnie’s memory to the University of Washington, and here was one for $10,000, from David and Dianne Stern, of Scarsdale, N.Y. In thanking Mr. Stern, Mr. Welts said they “did the guy thing,” communicating only through asides and silent stipulations.
“This was a loss that Rick had to suffer entirely on his own,” Mr. Stern said, reiterating that he was following Mr. Welts’s lead. “It’s just an indication of how screwed up all this is.”
Read the full article here.

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