By the time former Phoenix Suns executive Rick Welts's I-am-gay announcement appeared on the front page of the May 15, 2011, New York Times, he already had revealed his secret to friends, co-workers and business associates.
Among those told before the article was published were NBA Commissioner David Stern and senior executives at Nike Inc. (NKE), the world's largest sporting-goods company whose roster of team- sport athlete endorsers includes Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees and Joe Flacco of the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens. Nike asked Welts to deliver a message to anyone thinking about becoming the first openly gay athlete in major U.S. team sports -- the company wants him as an endorser.
"They made it clear to me Nike would embrace it," Welts, 60, now president of the National Basketball Association's Golden State Warriors, said in a telephone interview. "The player who does it, they're going to be amazed at the additional opportunities that are put on the table, not the ones that are taken off."
According to Bob Witeck, 61, a gay-marketing strategist and corporate consultant, the first openly gay team-sport athlete -- provided he's a recognizable name -- would earn millions in endorsements and speaking engagements from companies seeking to capture more of a U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adult population whose annual buying power he pegs at almost $800 billion.
David Fuller's view This is a smart policy by the world's largest and hugely successful sporting-goods company. Nike (historic & weekly) is a leading Autonomy, deriving almost two-thirds of its revenue from outside the USA.
I do not know how Bob Witeck calculates the US lesbian, gay and bisexual buying power number of almost $800 billion mentioned above but on a global basis the total has to be huge. As a company with Nike's clout taps this market it will surely gain far more loyal customers than it loses. I think a number of other leading companies will soon follow.
Nike's share price is temporarily overextended relative to its 200-day moving average but remains in a four-year bull market characterised by higher reaction lows.