Rick Welts, the highest-ranking openly gay executive in the NBA, left his job at the Phoenix Suns in 2011 to be closer to his partner and his two children in Sacramento, but then quickly secured a job with the Golden State Warriors as president only weeks later. Welts is obviously not only a trailblazer but also a valuable leader in sports.
Los Angeles Galaxy striker Robbie Rogers got a standing ovation when he took the field this year as the first openly gay male player in Major League Soccer — or in any major league U.S. team sport. Rogers had left the sport upon coming out but returned after a few months of adjustment. On that day, Rogers said he knew the world would be watching, but the nerves disappeared when it became just another game.
Rudy Galindo overcame an impoverished childhood in Mexico to become U.S. figure skating’s first openly gay champion in 1996. Galindo, who’s HIV-positive, was just inducted into the Figure Skating Hall of Fame in December. Says Laura Galindo-Black, Rudy’s sister and onetime coach, "I'm just so proud of him, that he's finally acknowledged for who he is as an artist and what he contributed to the world of figure skating. He crossed so many lines and barriers. I think he's the perfect person to be honored."
Seimone Augustus is a three-time WNBA all-star currently starting for the Minnesota Lynx, and in 2011 was named MVP after leading her squad to the championship title. This two-time Olympic Gold medal winner (2008, 2012) had a storied collegiate career at Louisiana State University that includes being named a three-time All-American and the Naismith College Player of the Year. Her jersey was officially retired at LSU, making her the first female in her school’s history to achieve the honor. In 2012 this outspoken lesbian made national headlines again, this time after publicly taking a stand against a ballot measure in Minnesota that would have banned same-sex marriage in the state. The ballot measure has since failed, and marriage is now legal for same-sex couples. At the time Augustus said, "You want to be able to do it in a city that, for one, has embraced me and been like my second home and is her home — this is where [fiancée LaTaya Varner is] from — to be able to share a special moment in Minnesota history."
Portland State University is the only Division I college with an openly gay head coach for women's basketball, Sherri Murrell. Since coming out, Murrell says she has become a better coach, and she constantly works toward breaking barriers for women in athletics. “Women’s sports has always been labeled as lesbian, and many try to combat that,” Murrell told The Advocate in 2011. “Talking to some of my colleagues, it’s just one more factor they believe can keep them from being successful. But I’m the true story that it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Newly inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, Sue Wicks played for the New York Liberty. She was the team's top pick for the inaugural season in 1997.
A former U.S. decathlete who competed in the 1968 Olympics, Tom Waddell went on to found the Gay Games in 1981. The event was originally called the Gay Olympics, but that landed Waddell in a dispute over the right to use the Olympic name. He died of AIDS complications in 1987.
When softball player Vicky Galindo came out as bisexual in The Advocate, she was on her way to the Beijing Olympics. She returned from China with a silver medal and the admiration of her teammates, including Lauren Lappin, who said Galindo’s openness gave her the courage to come out herself.
NFL cornerback Wade Davis has played for the Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins. and the Seattle Seahawks but now is out of the closet and mentoring LGBT youth at the Hetrick-Martin Institute.
Even though it's been a couple of years since Will Sheridan graduated from Villanova, where he was a starter for the men's basketball team, he likes to use his experiences to help others. "I'm trying to have a voice, and I want that voice to reach as many people as it can," told ESPN when coming out in 2011. "I mean, look at me. I'm black. I'm gay. I'm like a quadruple minority, and I feel like a little piece of me resides in everybody. Maybe there's a kid out there who doesn't think he's OK, and he can look at me and say, 'OK, he played college basketball. He went overseas. He has a music career and now he's living his life. Now he's who he wants to be and he's happy and confident and comfortable.' It's my responsibility to talk about that."
Written by Michelle Garcia, Leslie Dobbins, Lucas Grindley, Diane Anderson-Minshall, Trudy Ring, Tracy E. Gilchrist, Neal Broverman, Katie Wurtzel, and David Artavia. Art by Scott McPherson.