Suns prez Rick Welts reveals he's gay

Updated: May 16, 2011, 3:18 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts, in an effort to breach what he sees as the tiptoed-around topic of homosexuality in men's team sports, recently met with friends, associates and a newspaper reporter to reveal he is gay.

Welts, believed to be the first man in a prominent position in men's sports who has declared his homosexuality, says he wants to now mentor other gay people who seek to pursue a career in sports, according to The New York Times.

"This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits," Welts told the newspaper. "Nobody's comfortable in engaging in a conversation."

According to the report, Welts talked separately to NBA commissioner David Stern, Suns guard Steve Nash, Hall of Famer Bill Russell and founding WNBA president Val Ackerman to discuss the message he wished to convey in making his sexual orientation public.

The 58-year-old Welts, who began his career as a ball boy for the Seattle SuperSonics, spent several years with Stern in the league office. He was the architect of the All-Star Weekend and helped raise the NBA's profile before leaving for the Suns' front office.

Stern was not taken aback or even surprised by the conversation, though he did assume beforehand that Welts had wanted to meet to discuss career advice, according to The Times.

Rick Welts
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty ImagesRick Welts talked to several friends and associates, including David Stern, before going public.

"What I didn't say at the time was: I think there's a good chance the world will find this unremarkable," Stern told The Times. "I don't know if I was confusing my thoughts with my hopes."

Nash held a similar perspective.

"Anyone who's not ready for this needs to catch up," Nash said. "He's doing anyone who's not ready for this a favor."

Alvin Gentry, who has been the Suns' head coach for 2½ seasons after joining the team in 2004 as an assistant coach, complimented Welts, saying the fact he is gay is beside the point.

"I had a feeling about it," Gentry told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard when asked if he knew Welts was gay. "To me, what does it matter? I know he's great at his job; he's very organized and he does a brilliant job. To me, [his sexuality] is irrelevant.

"I'm happy for Rick because I think it takes a ton of weight off his shoulders," Gentry added. "I'm glad for him because it puts him in a more relaxed state. Do I look at him any differently or judge him any differently? Not in a million years. I've dealt with Rick for the last seven years and he's a great CEO and a great person.''

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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