On May 15, Phoenix Suns CEO and President Rick Welts announced publicly that he is gay. That announcement was important to me because he is someone who is actively involved in professional sports and has publicly acknowledged his sexuality. While many athletes wait until they retire to officially come out, the fact that Mr. Welts has the courage to do so while still actively involved with the NBA has encouraged me to also acknowledge that I am a gay athlete.
It is extremely important for me to come out to show other gay athletes, both current and future, that it is important to come out to show that we are just like everyone else. Being gay doesn’t define who I am as a person or as a professional athlete. I'm also a professional bowler, lawyer, caring, compassionate, strong, and many other things.
It's important to show people that being gay has nothing to do with one's ability to do anything as a man, least of all compete at the highest level of sports.
In 2009, after successfully passing my California bar exam, I made a decision to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a professional bowler. I entered and won the PBA Regional Players Invitational, which gave me the opportunity to bowl full-time on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour during the 2010-11 season, and I was fortunate enough to win the Chameleon Championship in Las Vegas for my first PBA Tour title. At the conclusion of my first year on tour, I was selected by my fellow players as PBA Rookie of the Year.
It was the culmination of years of hard work and dreams, and made every obstacle I had to overcome worthwhile.
I have encountered specific obstacles due to my sexuality, but I really do not wish to cause a great deal of turmoil in the industry or make waves. The issues that were in the past remain in the past but there were serious impediments to my progression to becoming a professional bowler. They only made me stronger and made me the person I am today. Those issues only strengthened my belief that knowledge is vital in our path to acceptance.
I will say, however, that my experience on the PBA tour surpassed nearly everything I could hope for in terms of acceptance. The vast majority of bowlers out on tour were accepting and welcoming as were all the staff, which deeply touched me.
I know from my own experiences that it was difficult for me personally to acknowledge being gay because of the shame and stigma brought on by society and I was afraid of not being accepted. I know it is more prevalent in the female sporting community to be gay, but I wouldn't necessarily say it makes it easier. It just means there are more people around to share your story with. I don't feel I have that kind of connection with anyone since many people I am around on our tour do not have that perspective.
I am very proud and happy with who I am and who I have become as a person, and I would hope that this will empower other gay athletes – past, present, or future – to come to terms with the truth about who they are and love themselves for who they are.
I appreciate the discretion and care with which the PBA staff has handled my situation. I have tried to conduct myself in a professional manner at all times and try to put forth a good reputation both for my community and for the PBA and sport of bowling.
I am currently working with Compete Sports, a gay sports network, as an advisor in developing different forms of media coverage (publishing, radio, and soon tv) which will hopefully bring even more exposure to our sport, as well as increased tolerance and acceptance within the sports community.
I hope everyone will continue to see me as the person I am, and nothing more, nothing less. Scott Norton, PBA Rookie of the Year.