Dan Barry of the New York Times reports:
Last month, in a Midtown office adorned with sports memorabilia, two longtime friends met for a private talk. David Stern, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, sipped his morning coffee, expecting to be asked for career advice. Across from him sat Rick Welts, the president and chief executive of the Phoenix Suns, who had come to New York not to discuss careers, but to say, finally, I am gay.
In many work environments, this would qualify as a so-what moment. But until now, Mr. Welts, 58, who has spent 40 years in sports, rising from ball boy to N.B.A. executive to team president, had not felt comfortable enough in his chosen field to be open about his sexuality. His eyes welling at times, he also said that he planned to go public.
By this point, Mr. Welts had already traveled to Seattle to share his news with another friend, Bill Russell, one of the greatest basketball players ever and the recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He had also met with Val Ackerman, the founding president of the Women’s National Basketball Association, in New York, and would soon be lunching in Phoenix with Steve Nash, the point guard and leader of the Suns and twice the N.B.A.’s most valuable player…
Growing up in Seattle, he was the industrious kid who landed a coveted job with the SuperSonics basketball team, first as a ball boy, then as an assistant trainer. By the time he went to the University of Washington, he had enough good-will clout to have Lenny Wilkens, then the coach of the Sonics, visit his fraternity for a chat.
But for all the fraternal respect this earned him, Mr. Welts felt isolated. What little he knew of gay culture was stereotypical, and unappealing, he recalled. “In my mind, it was effeminate: a way that I would not define as masculine.”
His growing responsibilities with the Sonics allowed him to miss class dances and other awkward obligations, but even alone, he felt out of place. Late one night, he walked two miles to slip a long confessional letter under the door of a young minister at his family’s church, but the well-intentioned minister could not help him. So he resigned himself to adapt, in private.