SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Pride Celebration Committee and its Board of Directors has named Golden State Warriors President and COO Rick Welts as their 2015 Celebrity Grand Marshal.
In a statement, SF Pride officials said, "With the ongoing excitement surrounding the team's current participation in the NBA Finals, and the 45th Annual Pride Celebration & Parade coming up later this month, SF Pride is excited to bestow this honor on America's first prominent, openly-gay sports executive.
One of the most respected business executives in the NBA, with over 39 years of experience in the league, Rick Welts is currently in his fourth season as president and chief operating officer of the Golden State Warriors. In this role, he oversees all business-related operations for the Warriors, including the team's proposed development of a privately financed sports and entertainment center in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood, reporting to the organization's Co-Managing Partners, Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. The organization has won numerous awards across all facets of the business in recent years, including last May when the Warriors were named "Sports Team of the Year" by the Sports Business Journal/Daily, with Welts accepting the award on behalf of the organization at the Seventh Annual Sports Business Awards in New York City.
Before joining the Warriors in October 2011, he spent nine years with the Phoenix Suns, serving the organization as president and chief executive officer for the last two seasons. Prior to joining the Suns, Welts enjoyed a successful 17-year (1982-1999) stint at the NBA league office in New York, where he ascended through the ranks to eventually become the league's third-in-command as the executive vice president, chief marketing officer and president of NBA Properties. In addition to his overall contributions to the revitalization of the league's image and popularity, his notable accomplishments at the NBA include the creation of NBA All-Star Weekend in 1984 - a model that subsequently became a fixture in both MLB and the NHL - along with the creation of the marketing program for USA Basketball for the 1992 Olympic 'Dream Team.'
In May of 2011, in a front-page story in the New York Times, Welts became the highest-ranking executive in men's professional team sports to publicly acknowledge he is gay. He was presented with a United States Tennis Association 2011 ICON Award at the US Open in New York City, an award that recognizes and celebrates those who have had a positive impact on diversity and inclusion in the sports industry and society. In October 2011, he was honored with GLSEN's (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) Respect Award, which honors those who have made a difference in the areas of diversity and inclusion. In September, he was honored by GLAAD, the nation's LGBT media advocacy organization, with the Davidson/Valentini Award, which is presented to an LGBT media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality for the LGBT community."
In a statement, Welts said, "It's a personal honor for me to serve as a grand marshal for the Pride Parade, but, more importantly, it's a reflection of how far we've come in professional sports. It hasn't always been easy or willingly embraced, for members of the LGBT community to find their place in the sports world, but things have decidedly changed for the better. We still have work to do, but I'm pleased, and humbled, by this opportunity to shine light on the contributions the LGBT community makes to sports, every day, all over the world."
ABC7 sports reporter Mike Shumann and reporters Wayne Freedman and Laura Anthony will be in Cleveland this week to bring you full coverage on the NBA Finals. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook for live updates.