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What happens when gay male execs come out? Add to ...

An NBA executive and an African-American CNN anchor both came out this week, both arguably in tough climes.

Rick Welts, president and chief executive of the Phoenix Suns basketball team, came out to the New York Times this past weekend to "pierce the silence that envelops the subject of homosexuality in men's team sports."

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"This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits," said Mr. Welts, who hopes to mentor gay people who seek sports careers but feel their sexuality bars them from entering the field.

While some of his colleagues seemed unfazed - including Suns' head coach Alvin Gentry, who told ESPN that Mr. Welts' sexuality is "irrelevant" - the sport has had its share of ugly moments.

Mr. Welts' admission comes one month after Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant responded to a foul by calling a referee "faggot." (Mr. Bryant has since apologized and been fined $100,000 for the slur.)

And in 2007, after John Amaechi became the first NBA player to speak openly about being gay, coming out in his 2007 memoir Man in the Middle, he faced the wrath of former player Tim Hardaway, who told a radio interviewer he wouldn't want a gay man on his team because, as he explained nonchalantly, "I hate gay people."

Coming out in his new memoir Transparent, CNN weekend prime-time anchor Don Lemon acknowledged the risks of being an openly gay black man.

"It's about the worst thing you can be in black culture," he told The New York Times on Sunday. "In the black community they think you can pray the gay away."

Mr. Lemon feared the reactions of black women, in particular: "You're afraid that black women will say the same things they do about how black men should be dating black women," he told The Times, adding, "I guess this makes me a double minority now."

Watch NBA star Grant Hill speak out against anti-gay language in a PSA here

Still, the tide may be turning: a new public service announcement features Phoenix Suns stars Grant Hill and Jared Dudley speaking out against anti-gay language among teenagers.

"Using gay to mean dumb or stupid - not cool," Mr. Hill says in the "Think B4 You Speak" spot, which is airing throughout the playoffs.

And just as NBA luminaries Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal had supported Mr. Amaechi in 2007, Steve Nash stepped up this time around.

"Anyone who's not ready for this needs to catch up," Mr. Nash told the Times regarding the Suns' CEO. "He's doing anyone who's not ready for this a favour."

Follow on Twitter: @ZosiaBielski

 

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