Rick Welts, who came out of the closet earlier this year, is stepping own from his position with the Phoenix Suns. Here’s the official release from the team: 

PHOENIX – Rick Welts will leave his position as President & CEO of the Phoenix Suns effective September 15, announced today by Welts and Suns Managing Partner, Robert Sarver. Sarver also announced that the Suns business organization will report to General Counsel, Jason Rowley, as the team launches a national search for the position of President. Lon Babby remains the President of Basketball Operations.

Welts joined the Suns in 2002 as President and had the additional title of CEO the past two seasons. Rowley came to the Suns in 2008 as General Counsel.

“I’m at a point in my life where my focus is to align my personal and professional life in a way I’ve never been able to achieve before,” said Welts. “The most important people in my personal life are not in Phoenix, and the Suns have been completely understanding and supportive of my request to leave in advance of the end of my contract.”

“My nine-plus years at the Suns have been incredibly rewarding thanks to a group of employees second to none in professional sports and the support of great ownership,” Welts continued. “The Suns organization has always been a special place to work, and I leave knowing that will continue to be true in the future.”

Sarver said, “The entire Suns organization thanks Rick for his tireless work on behalf of the Suns. While he will be missed, we understand his desire to relocate outside of Arizona for personal reasons. We have a very talented executive team including Jason Rowley, whose familiarity with the Suns organization will allow him to manage the business operations seamlessly as we conduct our search for a new team president. Our search will include both internal and external candidates.”

Welts has worked in the NBA virtually his entire life, starting as a ball kid with the Seattle Supersonics in 1967 and including a 17-year stint at the NBA League Office in New York City, where he left in 1999 as Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer.

In a front-page New York Times story on May 16 of this year, Welts revealed he was gay, the most senior professional sports executive ever to take that step.

“The response from fans, co-workers, players and ownership of the Suns to my announcement has been the most gratifying experience of my life, one for which I will forever be grateful,” added Welts.