Mercury honor former president Rick Welts during Pride Night

Jun 12, 2021, 6:10 PM
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 enshrinee Rick Welts speaks during the 2018...
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 enshrinee Rick Welts speaks during the 2018 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Symphony Hall on September 7, 2018 in Springfield, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Mercury and the WNBA have been at the forefront when it comes to celebrating Pride and being supporters of the LGBTQ+ community.

On Friday, the Mercury held their seventh annual Pride Night and honored Rick Welts, former Suns and Mercury President/CEO and Basketball Hall-of-Fame inductee, who became the first professional sports executive to come out in a front-page New York Times article in 2011.

“We look around the various professional sports leagues, and nobody has really taken such proactive steps as the W(NBA) in doing this,” Welts said via Zoom. “And I think it’s really important. We have such a wonderful platform, we have such powerful athletes to use that celebrity to wrap your arms around their fans and really, for me, the message is always like everyone’s welcome here.”

After coming out in 2011, Welts remembers how open and supportive both the Phoenix Suns and Mercury organizations were, which he still cherishes to this day.

“Everything changed, everything in my life had changed over the course of a very short period of time and a few butterflies walking into the office for the first time and greeting Ceola (Administrative Assistant/Receptionist) at the front desk,” The former Suns and Mercury president said. “And then walking through the offices and getting the kind of hugs and congratulations from the people that I worked with. It was a big deal to me.”

Welts also recalled how supportive former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo was when the league decided to create a WNBA team in Phoenix.

“From the beginning, Jerry Colangelo had no hesitation in becoming one of the charter teams in the WNBA and was completely supportive from day one,” Welts said. “I think, again, right from the beginning, this was a market that really embraced the W(NBA). It was one of our points of pride, always.”

Other leagues around the country have also shown their support during Pride month as the San Francisco Giants were the first Major League Baseball team to have a Pride colored baseball hat and uniform.

“You look around all of our leagues, and you see what various teams have chosen to do. And I think the cumulative effect of that is really significant. And should not ever be underestimated.” Welts said.

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Mercury honor former president Rick Welts during Pride Night