The Houston Rockets will host their first-ever LGBTQ Pride Night on April 2, when the team goes head-to-head against the Golden State Warriors.
“Embracing inclusivity is something our team believes in strongly,” Rockets’ CEO Tad Brown tells OutSmart. “It is our responsibility to celebrate all members of our community, including LGBTQ fans. Pride Night will provide an experience that shows how much we support and appreciate them.”
Brown notes that the LGBTQ-themed evening will include an entrance party, entertainment, and a conversation with out Warriors’ CEO Rick Welts.
“Rick will tell us about his journey to becoming the first openly gay professional sports executive,” Brown says. “He’ll show fans how to embrace their own paths, and teach us more about how to support the LGBTQ community.”
Clutch City’s first Pride Night has been in the making for over a year. Brown explains that the team initially discussed the event internally, and after receiving overwhelming support from owner Tilman Fertitta, Rockets staff members reached out to local community leaders for assistance.
Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce President Tammi Wallace and Chamber member Jack Berger have been working alongside the Space City team to ensure that it will provide fans with an unforgettable night that appropriately celebrates LGBTQ Houstonians.
In addition to the Chambers’ pre-game reception featuring a conversation with Welts, scheduled events include concourse community activation featuring the Montrose Center, and in-game elements such as the National Anthem and half time performances sung by members of the LGBTQ community.
“The Rockets’ Pride Night makes a huge statement not only to the LGBTQ+ community, but also sends a strong message across the country—and the world, for that matter—that Houston is an LGBTQ+ inclusive city,” Wallace says. “[The event] speaks volumes and truly honors LGBTQ+ fans.”
Due to the conservative traditions of men’s sports, there are currently only a few NBA teams that host LGBTQ-affirming events. This is changing, though, thanks to teams like the San Francisco-based Warriors, which hosted the NBA’s first Pride Night in 2018.
“Inclusivity and acceptance are becoming more common across all sports,” Welts says. “I’m very proud that the Rockets decided to host their first Pride Night this year, and I’m honored to participate in the event.”
Welts, who came out publicly in 2011 while he was CEO of the Pheonix Suns, says he feared that being openly gay would hinder his opportunities as a professional sports executive. “There was no one [out] in my field that I could look up to,” he recalls. “I had no idea how things would turn out. That was a big barrier for me.”
Welts ultimately chose to open up about his sexuality to inspire the next generation of LGBTQ folks who dream of working in the field of sports. “My goal was for a kid out there to hear my story and see that they could live as their authentic selves and have a wonderful conclusion to their own story.”
However, LGBTQ representation in professional men’s sports is still a rarity. While retired NBA star Jason Collins received overwhelming support after coming out as gay seven years ago, no one else has followed in his trailblazing footsteps. There are currently no openly LGBTQ active players in any of the four American major male professional leagues.
Events like the Rockets’ Pride Night may help shift this narrative by affirming LGBTQ fans and players, Welts says. Brown agrees, adding that “professional sports have the opportunity to lead in a unique way, and LGBTQ-inclusion should be a priority.”
Pride Night will become an annual Rockets’ event, Brown says, adding that the team hopes to show their pro-equality stance throughout the season.
“This isn’t about making a difference for just one day,” he says. “Going forward, the Rockets want to see Pride Night become a tradition that shows our [public] support for the LGBTQ community.”
For tickets and more information about the Rockets’ Pride Night, visit tinyurl.com/ve6nvw5. Attend the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce’ pre-game reception featuring Rick Welts by clicking here, and entering the promo code “Pride2020.”