Hi my name is Roy and I have a problem. I’m a prolific agitator, and I email politicians, members of the media, activists, and businesses, to express my opinion about the issues of the day.
While I was watching the evening news last night, on KGO ABC 7, local sportscaster Larry Beil was doing a story about the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors just announced that they hired Rick Welts, an openly gay NBA executive, with 36 years of experience, to be their President and Chief Executive Officer.
Rick Welts had been the President and CEO of the Phoenix Suns, and resigned three weeks ago, to move to the Bay Area to be with his partner. Welts said "It's an opportunity probably for the first time for me to align my personal and professional lives."
Toward the end of the segment, Larry Beil said Rick Welts made a “personal lifestyle choice” to move to the bay area. I found that characterization to be offensive. If Rick Welts moved to be with his wife, “lifestyle” would have never entered the conversation.
I took to my computer and emailed Larry Beil, to explain that I felt the characterization was homophobic. I said if Giant’s manager Bruce Bochy moved to Seattle to follow his wife, that no one would say he made a “personal lifestyle choice.” Being gay is not a lifestyle, nor is it a choice.
Larry has been at KGO ABC 7 news for 10 years. A former ESPN Sportscenter anchor, he is affable, professional, has a good sense of humor, and I have always enjoyed his reporting.
Larry responded to my email within minutes. He said:
“I think you misunderstood what I was saying…the phrase “personal lifestyle choice” was not a description of whether Welts is gay or straight…the choice was to come out openly, quit his job and move to the Bay Area to be with his partner. It was his choice to do all of those things and took a great deal of courage.”
“Perhaps I need to explain that more clearly on our 9 and 11pm newscasts.”
I didn’t watch the 9pm newscast, but I did catch the 11:00pm news. Larry’s story aired, and he was direct, and talked about Rick moving to the Bay Area matter of factly, to be with his partner. There was no reference to a lifestyle choice, and no one would have blinked.
I have to applaud Larry Beil. I believe most news professionals would have dismissed my email. Larry Beil isn’t a rookie, he is a professional with nearly 20 years of broadcast experience. And he is sensitive to how words affect perceptions, and was open to trying something different.
You might not think it’s a big deal - but I do. While I thought talking about a “personal lifestyle choice” was homophobic, I knew that based on my years of watching KGO ABC7 news, that Larry Beil was not. I have to give Larry big props, a heartfelt thanks, and a gold star, for being open and sensitive to how misleading and hurtful statements about “lifestyle choices” can be.
PS: Congratulations and welcome home Rick - I’m confident that you and the new owners of the Warriors will bring glory back to the Bay Area sports scene!