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Suns VP Ryan Resch Becomes First Openly Gay NBA Basketball Operations Person

Suns vice president of strategy and evaluation Ryan Resch publicly came out as gay, becoming the first openly gay executive on the basketball operations side of an organization.

Besides wanting to live his life without hiding who he is, Resch is hoping he can help other people in a similar situation become more comfortable with coming out in the NBA.

“Ultimately my goal is to normalize for people in and out of the league the existence of gay men and women on the basketball side,” Resch says.

Resch began working with the Suns as an intern in 2016, then got a full-time job in 2017, and he developed a close relationship with now-general manager James Jones. Over the past five years, he worked his way up the organizational ladder to his current position, handling a variety of responsibilities along the way.

Resch spoke with ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz discussing a variety of topics related to his decision to publicize who he is. One thing he mentioned was that he didn’t know that he was gay until last year, when his alma mater, Baylor, won the men’s basketball national championship and the Suns were in the NBA Finals. He claims that even though both of his favorite basketball teams were on the cusp of greatness, he wasn’t truly happy.

“Once I fully reflected on all of that, I finally separated myself from Ryan as the No. 2 of the Phoenix Suns front office,” he said. “I finally looked at my personal life and I realized just how deeply unhappy I was. The hardest part then was saying, ‘What are you afraid of? Why are you actually afraid to admit who you are and tell the world who you are?’”

By coming out publicly, Resch became the second Suns executive to blaze a trail forward in the last 11 years. In 2011, then-Suns CEO Rick Welts came out as the first openly gay executive in sports, but Welts primarily worked on the business side of operations. Resch’s work on the basketball half of the organization makes his statement a big deal in and of itself.

Suns owner Robert Sarver was the owner of the team then as well, so he has seen this before. The NBA is investigating Sarver for claims of racism and misogyny, but Resch said his interactions with Sarver haven’t been an issue.

“When I told Robert a couple of weeks ago, he was amazing,” he said. “He told me, “I’m so happy you feel comfortable enough to live as who you are, and bring someone special to you to a game.’ We spoke about Rick Welts. The best part of the conversation was our discussion about how it’s the quality of the work that will determine my trajectory professionally in the franchise. It's about merit.”

Resch is hopeful his public admission will allow other people working in basketball to feel comfortable coming out. He also understands how active NBA players can wrestle with the decision to be an active player in the league.

“I’m extremely fortunate that my actualized risk is completely different from the perception of risk that I created in my head,” he said. “But for a player who’s concerned about risking sponsorships, or extremely high-dollar contracts, or dealing with media questions or podium questions when they’re in the middle of a playoff run, that's difficult. We don’t necessarily provide people in this industry with the privacy, time or space to become comfortable with who they are.”

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