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Jock Talk: Welts elected to Hall of Fame

by Roger Brigham

Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts
Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts  

Rick Welts, a gay man who's president and chief operating officer of the world champion Golden State Warriors, added to his illustrious resume Saturday when it was announced that he has been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

"Rick's tenure with the Warriors and the NBA has been defined by innovation and inclusivity," said team owner Peter Guber. "From the All-Star Weekend to the 'Dream Team' to the WNBA, his impressive resume rivals that of any executive ever to work in the industry. He continues to add to it as the team prepares to open a world-class sports and entertainment venue, Chase Center, in 2019. He's a Hall of Famer not only by virtue of his successes but also in the way that he leads and inspires people to achieve their own successes."

Welts, 65, has been with the Warriors since 2011, having resigned as COO of the Phoenix Suns and moved to the Bay Area to be with his current partner, Todd Gage. Welts came out in a New York Times article earlier in 2011 while still with the Suns.

Welts' career in basketball started as a ball boy with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1969. He worked his way up to director of public relations by the time the Sonics won the NBA championship in 1979. He then worked as an NBA executive, during which time he developed the All-Star Weekend into a marketing staple, handled press relations for the Olympic "Dream Team" in 1992, and worked with Val Ackerman, president of the WNBA, to launch that league.

While preparing to come out, one of the first people Welts told about his sexual orientation was basketball great Steve Nash, at the time a fellow Suns executive and now a player development consultant with the Warriors.

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

Fittingly, they both were named to the Hall of Fame Saturday. Joining them are Alameda's Jason Kidd, Ray Allen, Grant Hill, Maurice Cheeks, Tina Thompson, Lefty Driesell, Charlie Scott, Dino Radja, Katie Smith, Ora Mae Washington, and Rod Thorn.

Inductions will be held September 7 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Time to shake off winter blahs
We're pretty sure that spring and summer are here to stay, so if you have hopes to compete this year at the Gay Games in Paris (latest reports indicate 7,500 athletes have already registered), or even if you just want to work off some of your winter waistline, now is a good time to get going on the playing field, at the gym, or in the pool. Here are a few of the local LGBT sports events coming up that you might want to check out.


Basketball
League play has already started for the San Francisco Gay Basketball Association, but open gym games are being played at Eureka Valley Recreation Center twice a month on Sunday evenings, from 5 to 8 p.m. Player cost is $5. The next four dates are April 8 and 22 and May 6 and 20. And it's not an official SFGBA event, but several members plan to attend a one-night meet and greet question and answer session with gay former NBA player Jason Collins Monday, April 16. Check that out and other SFGBA news on the group's Facebook page, "Castro Basketball League by SFGBA."

Dance
The North American Same-Sex Partner Dance Association will hold its North American and California championships at the annual April Follies, April 28 at Just Dance Ballroom in Oakland. Dance competitions include international standard and Latin; American smooth and rhythm; salsa; and bachata. For tickets and information, visit http://www.aprilfollies.com.
NASSPDA will also hold its annual meeting in conjunction with the championships. The public meeting is Sunday, April 29, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, at the Wooden Table Cafe in Oakland. For more information on NASSPDA, visit http://www.nasspda.org.

Aquatics
SF Tsunami will hold its Spring Picnic Saturday, April 7, at 12:30 p.m. on Stow Lake Drive in Golden Gate Park. There will be potluck food and lawn games, and athletes will be able to talk about their plans for competing in the Gay Games. For more information and to RSVP, check out the Tsunami Spring Picnic event page on Facebook.

Softball
The San Francisco Gay Softball League spring season is already under way, but new players can still sign up. The last new player evaluation clinic for women and open players will be Saturday, April 7, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Balboa Park. For more information, visit http://www.sfgsl.org.

Wrestling
The final LGBT club tournament before the Gay Games is Saturday, April 7, in San Diego. Golden Gate Wrestling Club has added Saturday afternoon practices (in addition to its regular Tuesday and Friday practices) at Eureka Valley Rec Center to prepare for the tournament and the Gay Games. For tournament information and registration, visit http://www.sdwrestling.org. For information on GGWC, visit the Golden Gate Wrestling Club page on Facebook.

Track and field
The SF Track and Field Club, originally formed by Gay Games founder Tom Waddell, holds Sunday practices at 10 a.m. at Cox Stadium on the San Francisco State campus. Currently the athletes are preparing to host the 11th annual Pride Track and Field Meet July 7 at Chabot College in Hayward. For information, visit http://www.sftrackandfield.com.

Roger Brigham can be reached at
jocktalkroger@yahoo.com.

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