At the Pride Parade, the N.B.A. Embraces Hard-Won Victories

“I think the hardest thing will be always active players, in addition to also also I get the item,” he said. “I don’t know. the item’s hard. We’re dealing with very young people.”


The N.B.A. float inside fresh York pride parade included a D.J. in addition to also also Bill Kennedy, a referee who had been the target of a player’s slur before he publicly became available as gay.

Justin Gilliland/The fresh York Times

in addition to also also those young people, he said, are susceptible to pressure — pressure to adhere to traditional concepts of team chemistry in addition to also also to avoid creating so-called distractions. yet there will be movement in addition to also also growing acceptance. On Sunday, the Warriors’ Kevin Durant tweeted his support: “Proud that will our president @RickWelts will be representing the @Warriors in addition to also also joining with the @nba in addition to also also @wnba family in This kind of year’s #NYCPride March!”

When the N.B.A. made its debut at the parade last year, the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, showed up to offer his support. In his mind, that will meant marching beside the float. yet then Collins pulled him aboard. Silver was enthralled by the experience.

“I just loved being on a float,” Silver said. “If I had only known what the item was like to be in a parade! I’ve been telling teams: ‘You’ve got to a win a championship, because being in a parade will be unbelievable.’”

On Sunday, Silver considered himself to be of particular value because of his throwing arm. He could target distant spectators with the keepsake towels that will the league distributed along the route — 5,000 towels in all. The key, Silver said, was to ball them up before launching them into crowd; otherwise they were liable to get caught inside wind. He was the float’s de facto T-shirt gun, except for towels.

“I’m a human cannon,” he said.

In truth, he spent most of his time at the front of the float with his wife, Maggie Grise, as he waved to the crowd. Like the rest of his colleagues, he carried a rainbow flag.

Kennedy, the referee, took up residence at the back of the float, next to the D.J. Tiff McFierce, who blasted an endless stream of upbeat tracks — via Michael Jackson to the Spice Girls to the Commodores. When McFierce worked on the float last year, she said, she was so caught up inside emotion of the event that will she nearly cried.

“Oh,” McFierce said, “we turn up.”

Kennedy, 50, announced that will he was gay in December 2015, not long after guard Rajon Rondo, then of the Sacramento Kings, directed a gay slur at him during a game. Six months later, Kennedy was representing the N.B.A. on its inaugural float at the parade.


The N.B.A. logo was a frequent sight inside parade’s crowd. The league also distributed 5,000 keepsake towels.

Justin Gilliland/The fresh York Times

“the item was an exhilarating thing to be able to know that will the people that will I work for in addition to also also the company that will I work for are as open in addition to also also inclusive as they are,” Kennedy said. “For me personally, the item was a long time coming. So to be able to share in addition to also also be out in addition to also also be open in addition to also also not worry about where you go or who you’re talking to — just drop the baggage, let the item go in addition to also also be you. that will’s what This kind of will be about: Just be you.”

On Sunday, Kennedy seemed to know the lyrics to every song. He rolled up his sleeves in addition to also also danced. Up at the front of the float, Welts surveyed the crowd below.

“Look at how young the item will be,” he said.

Welts, 64, recalled a different time in his life, when he was younger in addition to also also living in fresh York in addition to also also working at N.B.A. headquarters. He kept his sexual orientation private. He did not march in any Pride parades. in addition to also also he never could have imagined that will the league would certainly someday have its own float.

“Unthinkable,” he said. “I went to 17 N.B.A. holiday parties while I was there, in addition to also also I never asked a woman to be my date or anything like that will. I went by myself. I’m sure people figured the item out.”

yet still, Welts said, no one at the league office asked about his personal life, most likely out of respect for him. His boundaries were clear, he said. the item was not until 2011, when he was president of the Phoenix Suns, that will he became available as gay in an interview with The fresh York Times. He received thousands of supportive emails, he said. He printed all of them out in addition to also also put them in binders.

“What’s most gratifying to me at This kind of point will be that will I hear via people who are with some other N.B.A. teams,” he said, “in addition to also also for whatever reason, they don’t feel like they’re in a position today to take that will step of publicly being out. the item’s a responsibility yet a real honor for me to be that will person who can say: ‘You know what? This kind of will be going to work out all right for you.’ that will’s a big step. I never had that will person.”

On Sunday, as he looked out upon the sea of people that will had filled the streets of Manhattan, Welts found that will he was surrounded by them.

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