In a league where Kobe Bryant can call a referee a "faggot," Tim Hardaway can say "I hate gay people," and two Phoenix Suns' players can get mocked on Twitter for filming an anti-homophobia PSA, the Suns CEO decided he had to speak up.
Rick Welts, who is credited with creating the NBA All-Star Weekend, and whose career in the front offices of pro basketball has spanned decades, picked up the phone on Sunday and told The New York Times he was gay.
In speaking out, he's hoping he can inspire a few young athletes who may be suffering in silence. "I thought, there might be some young people out there who were in the same position I was, who love team sports ... but are afraid," Welts told the New York Daily News on Monday. "If by telling my story, if even just a few young people are encouraged to follow their passion and have a successful career, then it will have been worth it."
Even if he doesn't play on the court Welts is one of the most high-profile — and powerful — people in pro sports to come out of the closet.
And much of the reaction has focused on hopes that this will nudge pro sports towards a more accepting attitude towards gays and lesbians.
"Anyone who's not ready for this needs to catch up," Suns star Steve Nash told ESPN. "He's doing anyone who's not ready for this a favor."
Just last week, pro hockey player Sean Avery caught a lot of flak online for joining a campaign of prominent New Yorkers pushing for gay marriage.