If you will, please excuse me from my weekly Thursday night rapid fire rundown of random topics to quickly focus on a much more meaningful issue.
Today via the website Outsports.com, a guy named Kenny Dow wrote a piece about coming out as a gay man in the very masculine and testosterone driven industry of athletics. He chronicled his childhood and early professional career living in ultra conservative Montana where he didn’t feel the slightest bit comfortable revealing his true self. You would have thought that as he grew older and more established in the Big Sky state it would have made it easier to share with others his sexual orientation. Not so. Working inside probably the most visible, scrutinized, and tradition ridden office in the state, the University of Montana Athletics Department, Kenny didn’t feel comfortable. When an awesome job opportunity came his way, he got out.
During the last year of his tenure at Grizzly Athletics, Kenny (along with Christie Anderson), served as my mentor(s). As a young intern in the marketing department I looked up to my bosses. I had such an amazing year learning about the business and having an absolute blast. A friendship grew between Kenny and I, one that would really only get stronger as we lived hundreds (and now thousands) of miles apart. When Kenny did announce his departure from Grizzly Athletics I put on hold a fully paid graduate school opportunity to do everything I could to get his job. Stars aligned and I was successful and for my whole time at Grizzly Athletics I poured every ounce of my being toward trying to equal the contributions Kenny made during the time he sat in my chair.
As the marketing director in the Portland State Athletics Department, Kenny turned everything about that place around. He took it from absolutely nothing to an award winning, prideful marketing program. His professional accomplishments at Portland State will go down as nothing short of spectacular. Don’t kid yourself though, the most significant accomplishment during his time in the Rose City wasn’t a professional one…it was a personal one. Encouraged by the openly gay women’s basketball coach Sherri Murrell to be himself, Kenny no longer hid who he was. Portland State accepted him and Kenny couldn’t have felt more comfortable.
At around the same time I left for Coastal Carolina, Kenny also left for a different job. Taking another giant leap up the ladder, he took an executive position with the Seattle Storm of the WNBA. Besides now making big marketing decisions for a professional sports team Kenny also gets to make big strides for the LGBT community. The WNBA has launched a large campaign to embrace its gay fan base and Kenny has an instrumental part in executing it. You got to think about this for a couple seconds: A guy who once worked in a place where he felt he couldn’t even come out is now an openly gay executive for a pro team playing an integral part in a national LGBT campaign. Not bad.
I am so proud of what Kenny has done both for others and himself. I am also extremely proud to say that he mentored me and has had a major impact on my professional career. You keep succeeding, good sir. Don’t Blink.