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Volume 24 No. 156

People and Pop Culture

Suns President & CEO RICK WELTS first "began thinking about going public" with his homosexuality in January after a "conversation with a friend,” according to Paola Boivin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Welts later met with representatives of the N.Y. Times, who "said they wanted to put the story on the front page of the newspaper.” The editors “were adamant, though, that he keep quiet about it so it didn't leak.” Welts said the response from the Suns "has been amazing." He added that he “had a long, supportive conversation” with Suns Owner ROBERT SARVER Sunday night. Welts now is “dealing with the aftermath, which includes interviews with Time Magazine, Forbes, National Public Radio, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, the Seattle Times, CNN, MSNBC and ESPN.” He said feedback has been "100 percent positive" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/17). In N.Y., Marc Berman notes “six months ago, Welts called his friend of 30 years,” filmmaker DAN KLORES, for “advice and later hired the Klores public relations firm to handle the matter.” Welts: "The question with me: Was there something good that could be done by telling my story publicly? It was a year process. The young people out there living a life not much different than mine, I want them to feel they can follow their passion” (N.Y. POST, 5/17).

ENCOURAGING RESPONSE: Welts said of the reaction to his announcement, "I am overwhelmed by the response to this point which I think encourages me to figure out some way to stay active in this or a related cause." ESPN's Bill Simmons noted, "One of the remarkable things about this story is the attitude ... that people don't really care." Simmons: "There's no backlash with this" ("The B.S. Report," ESPN Radio, 6/16). Welts added, "I have to admit, it's pretty moving to read some of the emails I've gotten from people I don't even know who, for whatever reason, felt they wanted to reach out and say, 'Thank you for doing what you've done and here's my story and here's what I'm thinking about now.' That's pretty powerful.” He added, “I've never felt any hostility in the work environment. But there is this kind of silence about (homosexuality) where we just agree not to talk about it. I think the NBA is further along in all (civil rights) issues. It's a far more diverse culture. I think the NBA is ahead of the pro sports curve, but that still is way behind where society is right now" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/17).

STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION: TRUEHOOP’s Henry Abbott noted Welts “provides an inspiring role model for homosexuals in sports, but also -- and this matters -- political heft.” This “might mark the beginning of the NBA and its teams becoming somewhat welcoming work environments for homosexuals, which they have not generally been.” Abbott: “The evidence: zero of the NBA's 3,000 plus NBA players has come out of the closet while playing in the league, while it's not all that uncommon for players to be caught using anti-gay slurs” (, 5/16). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said Welts' announcement was "encouraging." Paige: "It was significant because when you have CEOs and major executives in any industry that will come out and announce that they are gay, I think it creates a new atmosphere in our country, not only in that sport." Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw: "It's got to be significant and I applaud him for doing it. It will be bigger in the future when an athlete does it, when an athlete currently in his prime still on a team does it. But this is maybe a nice first step" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/16).

TIME FOR A PLAYER TO SPEAK UP: In Philadelphia, John Smallwood writes if Welts “thinks he’s made some culture-changing announcement, he hasn’t.” Smallwood: “This is not to diminish Welts’ bravery, but a chief executive officer or a team president is not a player or coach. And in the grand scheme of things in the sports world, his coming out will have about as much impact as if I were gay and came out” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/17). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote, “It is a big deal. It would have been a massive deal 10 years ago. It says something about society if this story registers a ho-hum reaction. The bigger story will be when an active pro athlete from one of the four major sports leagues admits that he is gay” (, 5/16). In Orlando, Shannon Owens writes, “Quite frankly, it's time for one of these guys to speak up. The silence of closeted gay NFL, NBA and MLB players erodes the opportunity for real dialogue about more respectful language and behavior towards homosexuals in sports.” Owens adds, “But the move toward respect and tolerance in sports won't take root until conversations in the locker rooms change. That is the place where unity is created or destroyed” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/17). Welts said the player that "makes that first decision is going to be incredibly courageous, because careers are short and endorsements are hard to come by and your next contract is still a ways away" ("The B.S. Report,", 5/16). 

ESPN's MIKE TIRICO and BRENT MUSBURGER, SI’s PETER KING, Boston Globe columnist BOB RYAN and Brewers announcer BOB UECKER were honored last night at the 52nd Annual National Sportscaster & Sportswriters Association's Awards Banquet in Salisbury, N.C. Tirico was given the honor of Sportscaster of the Year, while King was named Sportswriter of the Year. Musburger, Ryan and Uecker were inducted into the association's HOF. ESPN golf analyst CURTIS STRANGE presented Tirico with his award, recounting how the 20-year veteran would practice his profession in front of the TV at the ripe age of three with a spoon as a microphone. Tirico thanked his friends, family and co-workers, whom he joked took up half of the audience last night. SI’s DON BANKS presented King, who was notably touched by the honor and rendered temporarily speechless. He later noted that was something many of his peers would think is all but impossible. King emphasized the power of his platform in writing for SI. He reminisced about a three-day road trip with Pro Football HOFer JOHN MADDEN, during which Madden pulled out a book on the wildflowers of America while on a stretch of road in the back country of Kansas. King said it was then that he knew his role as a sportswriter was to tell the fan what happens behind the scenes.

WELCOME TO THE HALL: ESPN's JACKIE MACMULLAN inducted Ryan into the HOF, recounting she started at the Boston Globe as a 21-year-old with Ryan, who showed her the integrity, passion and work ethic she needed to survive in the New England market. Ryan accepted the award with the same passion, stressing that sport is the single entity that galvanizes a community. Uecker, who was unable to attend the banquet due to the Brewers’ schedule, said in a video he would come to the Awards Banquet one year, promising to work at the event. He had been presented with his plaque earlier in the month when the Brewers visited the Braves at Turner Field. Musburger also was absent from the event, but he too sent a taped message thanking the NSSA for the honor. ESPN Senior VP & Exec Producer for Event Production JED DRAKE accepted on Musburger’s behalf, noting ESPN/ABC’s lead college football broadcaster is the consummate professional. The night also featured a special cake by TLC's “Cake Boss" with specially designed figurines of the honorees.

Dish Network named JOSEPH CLAYTON President & CEO and appointed him to the company's BOD, effective June 20. He succeeds CHARLES ERGEN, who will remain as Dish Network Chair (Dish Network). Ergen is "moving behind the scenes" to focus on "integrating a string of acquisitions that include" Blockbuster (DENVER POST, 5/17)....adidas promoted HERMANN DEININGER to CMO, reporting to Exec Board Member ERICH STAMMINGER. Deininger has been with adidas since '85, and has worked for the Global Marketing team since '00 (adidas)....The Dolphins named eScreen CFO MARK BROCKELMAN Senior VP and Chief Financial & Administrative Officer for the team and Sun Life Stadium. He will report to CEO MIKE DEE and will oversee all aspects of the organization's financial and administrative departments, including finance and HR (Dolphins).

: The Flames named JAY FEASTER GM. Feaster had been serving as acting GM since Dec. 28. The team also announced former C CRAIG CONROY has signed a multiyear deal to become Special Assistant to the GM (CALGARY HERALD, 5/17)....The British Olympic Association named England 2018 World Cup bid CEO ANDY ANSON and Eversheds lawyer DENISE JAGGER non-Exec Dirs (London TELEGRAPH, 5/17)....USA Triathlon named DLA Piper Partner CHARLES BAKER an independent rep on the organization's BOD (USA Triathlon)....Learfield Sports named the following: LUKE BOSSO Indiana Univ. Sports Properties Business Development Manager; MANDY BLAU Univ. of Iowa Hawkeye Sports Properties Account Exec; CARLTON RECHER Univ. of Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs Sports Properties Account Exec; and MATT PRESTON Univ. of New Hampshire Wildcat Sports Properties Account Exec (THE DAILY)....SportsOne named MAGGIE HARRIS Client Services Coordinator (SportsOne).   

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The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Alan Cullison notes Nets Owner MIKHAIL PROKHOROV will “lead a heavily favored pro-business political party that oppositionists malign as a tool of the Kremlin.” Prokhorov yesterday announced that he “has offered to serve as head of the Right Cause party, which Moscow has tried unsuccessfully to mold into a magnet for Russia's entrepreneurial class.” Prokhorov said that the Kremlin “had no role in his decision and said he stepped forward at the urging of friends and family” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/17). Prokhorov said his decision to head the party was an “uneasy” one. The “establishing of the party is widely seen by critics as an attempt by the Kremlin to lure opposition-minded, pro-business votes, while creating an illusion of competition with the ruling United Russia party ahead of elections” (AP, 5/16).

POLITICAL SWAY? A Univ. of Western Ontario study by JOHN NATER and ROBERT MACIEL found that the CBC’s DON CHERRY is “the common link among hockey, soldiers and a bolder, more aggressive strain of Canadian identity.” The study, to be released today during the Canadian Political Science Association’s annual conference, found that Cherry “speaks of soldiers almost as much as he talks about hockey” on his “Coach’s Corner” segments on “HNIC.” In Toronto, Susan Delacourt notes some political scientists fear the results of the recent federal election "may be evidence that voters are more tuned in to Cherry’s Canada than they are to Parliament -- and that the newly elected Conservative majority could represent a setback in fixing what’s wrong with politics in Ottawa” (TORONTO STAR, 5/17).

DEVIL IN THE DETAILS: Duke men's basketball coach MIKE KRZYZEWSKI’s total compensation for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2010 was listed as nearly $4.7M, including a “base salary of $2 million, more than $2.2 million in bonuses and incentives and $420,000 in retirement and other deferred compensation.” Duke football coach DAVID CUTCLIFFE made $1.7M, while Duke AD KEVIN WHITE’s total compensation was $908,000 (AP, 5/16).

ON THE MOVE: BUSINESS FIRST OF BUFFALO’s James Fink profiled Delaware North Co. VP/Facilities & Project Management ROY OLSEN, the “point man for its growing list of construction and development projects.” Olsen has been with the company for 11 years and recently spent “two days working with Baltimore Orioles staff as Delaware North prepared to start its first season running the concessions” at Camden Yards. He then flew to Chicago to meet with the White Sox organization on plans to "construct a bi-level, 13,000-square-foot retail center at U.S. Cellular Field." Olsen and his nine-person team “oversee 26 development projects” in a typical year. The “long list of projects has exceeded more than $100 million in capital investments by the company” (BUSINESS FIRST OF BUFFALO, 5/13 issue).

NAMES: ISC Vice Chair & CEO LESA FRANCE KENNEDY last weekend joined 2,500 cyclists in South Florida to participate in the 150-mile Zimmerman MS Ride to raise funds for and awareness of the fight against multiple sclerosis (ISC)….The NHL is “demanding $89,000” from Montreal restaurant owner FADL ISSA for “putting up a sign in one of his downtown restaurants showing a Middle Eastern man in a red-and-white Canadiens jersey slicing up shawarma.” The poster in one of Issa's restaurants near the Bell Centre also “had the logo ‘Go Habs Go,’ emblazoned near the fez-wearing character with a large handlebar moustache” (CP, 5/16)…. Milwaukee Repertory Theater said that it will bring “LOMBARDI” to town this fall. The play’s run on Broadway ends this Sunday. It will run in Milwaukee from Oct. 11-Nov. 13 (AP, 5/16)….Red Sox P TIM WAKEFIELD and Looney Tunes characters are featured in “KNUCKLED UNDER BY WAKEFIELD,” a Warner Bros. animation art tribute signed by Wakefield. The limited-edition release will raise funds for at-risk children through the Pitching in for Kids charity (THE DAILY)….Eagles QB MICHAEL VICK will address graduates of the Camelot Schools, an “alternative high school program in Philadelphia that serves at-risk youth” (AP, 5/16)….U.S. Supreme Court Justice SAMUEL ALITO attended last night’s Phillies-Cardinals game at Busch Stadium and was "escorted around" the Cardinals clubhouse by team investor DAVID PRATT (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/17).