When the National Basketball Association deliberated what to do about next February’s All-Star game, scheduled to be played in Charlotte, N.C. before the state enacted hateful anti-LGBTQ legislation, one openly gay man stood up to be counted: Golden State Warriors president Rick Welts, reports USA Today.
Welts reportedly influenced the decision by the NBA to strip North Carolina of the honor — and an expected windfall of $100 million in revenue — because it refused to repeal or modify the law that bars N.C. cities from enacting their own civil rights legislation and forces transgender individuals to use only the bathrooms that match the gender listed on their birth certificates.
In what the newspaper described as a poignant address, Welts explained his meaningful and lifelong affiliation with the NBA and told his fellow league owners he didn’t feel comfortable attending the All-Star Game in Charlotte if the law remained as is.
Three of the 70 people who were in the room provided identical accounts of Welts’ heartfelt and unscripted address to USA Today. They remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly about what happened at that closed-door meeting.
Some owners reiterated the league’s core values of diversity and inclusion, reported the paper, while acknowledging the North Carolina law is a sensitive issue. Not one owner spoke up and opposed relocation.
The owners and league executives reportedly looked at the issue from a business standpoint as well: how could they defend holding the league’s midseason celebratory showcase event in a city where the game would be overshadowed by protests and media coverage of House Bill 2?
Welts, 63, told his story of rising up through the NBA ranks as a ballboy and coming out in 2011. Then he said he has spoken to employees in the LBGT community from half of the league’s teams who, like him, didn’t feel comfortable attending.
“His words weren’t emotional, and they weren’t delivered as a threat,” reported USA Today. He told the paper not to portray him as some kind of hero, and that he was adamant he wasn’t telling the league what it should do. It was just his story, his point of view.
But it was enough. The game is expected to be played in New Orleans, and the league is inviting cities supportive of LGBTQ rights to pitch why they should host the event.