Basketball executive Rick Welts has revealed that Nike approached him two years ago in hopes of sponsoring an openly gay professional athlete
Sports executive agree that America’s first openly gay professional athlete will reap huge monetary benefits.
According to news source Bloomberg, senior executives at Nike told gay basketball executive Rick Welts in 2011 they would endorse the first openly gay athlete to come from a major US sports team.
‘They made it clear to me Nike would embrace it,’ said Welts, the former Phoenix Suns executive who came out as a gay man in 2011.
‘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.’
Bloomberg also spoke with Bob Witeck, a gay corporate consultant who said that the first openly gay athlete, if popular enough, could earn millions of dollars for speaking engagements and endorsements from companies seeking to court the LGBT population.
Witeck, who’s served as a consultant for American Airlines for the past 20 years, estimates the US LGBT population buying power is approximately $800 billion (â‚¬610 billion).
Witeck helped the American airline launch a gay-targeted marketing campaign to show the company’s support of the LGBT community.
Witceck said: ‘There’s higher reward than risk right now,’ for the individual who decides to become the first openly gay athlete in US professional sports.
‘The first time you do something you get most of the benefit.’
Nike is not the only sports-related entity looking to further align itself with the LGBT community. Earlier this week the National Hockey League (NHL) teamed with You Can Play Project, a group that promotes equality in sports, to announce the organization’s commitment to fighting homophobia in sports.
Mark Elderkin, chief executive officer of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Gay Ad Network said: ‘We’ve passed the tipping point to where national advertisers are no longer afraid of the gay market.’