NBA announces new nondiscrimination policy including sexual orientation

You can now add the National Basketball Association to the ranks of professional sports organizations that specifically include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Around 5:30 tonight, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement applauding the NBA for making the move, but I haven’t found anything else online about the announcement, except this piece in the Windy City Times, an LGBT paper in Chicago, which is taken from the HRC release, and which notes that the NBA’s announcement came on the same day that HRC released its 2012 Corporate Equality Index.

HRC President Joe Solmonese said: “The NBA now joins the ranks of some of the most influential organizations and corporations in the country, who all believe that equality and inclusion are integral to a successful workplace, We are grateful to Commissioner Stern, the NBA and the Players’ Association for sending such a powerful message to society that what matters is a person’s talent, not their sexual orientation.”

The HRC statement also points out that Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash — formerly with the Dallas Mavericks — is one of several pro athletes who have made videos recently to speak out in support of marriage equality. Nash’s video, which you can watch below, was part of the campaign to pass the marriage equality law in New York State.

Like I said, I haven’t found anything on this yet from the any source other than HRC, not even on the NBA website. But we’ll keep looking, and tell you more when we find it.

—  admin

Celeb sightings

This year’s Out & Equal Workplace Summit boasts a healthy amount of celebrities coming to town. From actors to comedians and more, Dallas prepares not only to host a slew of workshops on equality, but also rolls out the red carpet for these guests.

Meredith Baxter:  You’ll likely remember the actress as supermom Elyse Keaton on Family Ties. But she made a new impression by coming out last year. She speaks at Wednesday’s breakfast plenary session and follows up with a book signing at Nuvo, 3900 Cedar Springs Road, on Oct. 26 at 6 p.m.

Andy Cohen:  The senior vice president at Bravo has almost singlehandedly changed the face of gays on television. That extends to these parts with the new show Most Eligible Dallas.
The Watch What Happens Live host will appear at Tuesday’s brunch plenary session.

Rick Welts:  The name may not be as familiar but Welts made front page news this year in the New York Times. The former Phoenix Suns president is the first higher-up of a men’s professional sports organization to come out.
He appears with Baxter at the Wednesday plenary.

Margaret Cho:  The comedian has long been an ally to the LGBT community and continues in appearances at such events as this. She is part of the lineup for Thursday’s gala dinner hosted by fellow comedian Kate Clinton.

Wilson Cruz:  The actor redefined the queer image on television with his work on My So Called Life. Through his acting on stage and screen, Cruz has also become an advocate for LGBT youth. He appears with Cho and Clinton at the gala dinner.

For more information on these and other guests appearing at the summit, visit OutAndEqual.org/2011-Speakers.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Phoenix Suns exec tells newspaper he’s gay

Rick Welts

Rick Welts among most prominent active figures in sports to come out

NEW YORK — Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts revealed to the public that he is gay in a story posted on The New York Times’ website Sunday, saying he wants to break down one of the last significant social barriers in sports.

Welts’ declaration is the latest development on a subject has gained attention in the sports world recently, after Lakers star Kobe Bryant’s use of a gay slur on the basketball court and NHL player Sean Avery’s public support of same-sex marriage.

Welts talked to NBA commissioner David Stern, WNBA president Val Ackerman, Hall of Famer Bill Russell and Suns guard Steve Nash before discussing his sexual orientation with a reporter from the Times, the newspaper said. All of them offered Welts their support.

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

The Suns did not offer a statement Sunday when contacted by The Associated Press. Messages left with Welts’ public relations team were not returned.

Welts is one of the most prominent figures active in sports to openly declare that he is gay, although there has yet to be an active player in the NBA, Major League Baseball or the NFL to make such a statement. Some athletes have done so after their playing careers.

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.

Welts told Stern about his sexual orientation during a meeting in New York last month. The next day, Bryant responded to a technical foul by calling referee Bennie Adams a “faggot” during the third quarter of a game against San Antonio — touching off a firestorm of controversy and underscoring the taboo nature of the subject in sports.

The Lakers star was fined $100,000; Bryant has since offered multiple apologies.

Also last month, Atlanta Braves coach Roger McDowell allegedly made homophobic comments, crude gestures and threatened a fan with a bat before a game in San Francisco. McDowell served a two-week suspension and also apologized for his remarks.

Then there was Avery, the outspoken New York Rangers agitator, who offered his support for same-sex marriage in a video as part of the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign.

Hockey agent Todd Reynolds tweeted that it was “Very sad to read Sean Avery’s misguided support of same-gender ‘marriage.’ Legal or not, it will always be wrong.” Damian Goddard, who hosted a show on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada, tweeted his support for Reynolds and was fired.

Among the only people Welts opened up to were his parents and younger, only sibling, Nancy — although Stern said he had a feeling his friend was gay. Stern even telephoned Welts after his longtime partner, Arnie, died from complications of AIDS in 1994.

Now, after all these years, Welts has decided it’s time to come out of the shadows.

“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, recalling their meeting in which Welts revealed he was gay. “I don’t know if I was confusing my thoughts with my hopes.”

Welts said he told Nash because they hold each other in high professional regard. According to the newspaper, Nash was tipped off about what Welts wanted to discuss and was surprised only because he thought everyone already knew that Welts was gay.

“I think it’s a shame, for all the obvious reasons, that this is a leap that he has to take,” Nash said. “Anyone who’s not ready for this needs to catch up. … He’s doing anyone who’s not ready for this a favor.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Pro basketball executive Rick Welts, CNN anchor Don Lemon come out

Don Lemon

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. An anti-transgender marriage bill is back on the Texas Senate’s Intent Calendar for today. That means if you haven’t already contacted your senator and urged them to vote against SB 723, by Sen. Tommy Williams, you should do so now by going here. If the bill doesn’t clear the Senate and a House committee by midnight Saturday, it will die.

2. The FBI has expanded its probe into a brutal beating outside a gay nightclub in downtown El Paso to include other recent possible hate crimes in the area, the El Paso Times reports. The victim, 22-year-old Lionel Martinez, remains in a coma more than a week after the attack, and LGBT advocates say El Paso police haven’t been taking anti-gay incidents near the Old Plantation nightclub seriously.

3. The weekend was marked by two pretty big coming-out stories: Rick Welts, president and chief executive officer of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns; and CNN anchor Don Lemon.

—  John Wright