Rick Welts: NBA and Club Leadership Roles Provide Platform for Broader Societal Change

By George Foster, Cor van der Wal, Gerzain Gutierrez, Zach Naidu
2021 | Case No. L38 | Length 55 pgs.

Rick Welts has been one of the most successful and lauded business executives in professional sports. He made remarkable contributions to the NBA league office, and was president of three NBA teams which won seven championships during his tenure. He was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, a rare distinction for a business-side executive who was not an owner or commissioner. In 2011, he became the first openly gay high-level sports executive in U.S. male professional team sports. He subsequently became an advocate for, and inspiration to, gay youth.

This case describes Welts’s career, from his days as a ball boy for the Seattle Supersonics, through college, and the NBA. It includes transcripts of interviews with individuals who shed light on Welts’s career, leadership style, and impact.

Learning Objective

This case is designed to provide an example of an exceptional leader, and how business success (in this case in a high-profile sports career) can be leveraged to inspire broader social change. It can be used in courses on sports management, leadership, or social change.
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