Kevin McClatchy, the owner and CEO of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1996 to 2007, has acknowledged he is gay to The New York Times, saying frequent homophobic slurs he heard in baseball circles had convinced him to keep his sexual orientation a secret.
McClatchy, an heir to a newspaper chain who sold his shares of the Pirates in 2009 only after ensuring that the club remained in Pittsburgh, said the time had finally come to speak openly about his sexuality.
“You’re not going to solve any problem until you start a dialogue,” McClatchy told The Times for an op-ed story published in Sunday’s editions. “And there’s no dialogue right now.”
McClatchy will also be the subject of Wednesday’s “Outside The Lines” (3 p.m. ET on ESPN).
“I’ve got a birthday coming up where I’m turning old,” McClatchy, who will turn 50 in January, told The Times. “I’ve spent 30 years — or whatever the number is specifically — not talking about my personal life, lying about my personal life.”
McClatchy, 49, is not the first major-league executive or former executive to come out as gay. Rick Welts, the president and chief executive officer of the Phoenix Suns, revealed his sexuality last year.
“This has been challenging to me,” McClatchy told The Times of his decision to reveal his sexual orientation. “I probably didn’t sleep as well as I could have last night.”
McClatchy boasted of baseball’s ending of racial segregation in sports while saying he didn’t think players considered it similar to one of their own coming out as gay.
“I don’t think they equate breaking the color barrier with Jackie Robinson to, ‘Hey, by the way, we’ve never had one player announce they’re gay while playing baseball.’ ”
A native of Sacramento, McClatchy spent more than six months assembling the shareholders and cash necessary to buy the Pirates in February 1996, after local ownership could not be found and it appeared the money-losing team might be relocated.
He announced his resignation as chief executive officer in July 2007.
McClatchy emerged as a surprise bidder for the Pirates in 1995, after Pennsylvania cable TV franchise owner John Rigas was designated to buy the team but did not complete the transaction. Then-NL president Len Coleman guided McClatchy’s group through the $95 million transaction so a franchise now worth three times that amount would not leave.
While McClatchy kept the Pirates in Pittsburgh, and was the driving force in getting PNC Park financed and built for the 2001 season, the team never had a winning season while he was the owner.
“I take responsibility for the losing, that’s probably in some ways reason for a change,” McClatchy said in 2007.
McClatchy’s lobbying also was instrumental in the 2006 All-Star Game being played in PNC Park, only 12 years after the game was staged in Three Rivers Stadium.
“Kevin McClatchy saved the Pittsburgh Pirates. He assumed control of the franchise amid considerable turmoil and during the worst economic period in baseball history,” commissioner Bud Selig said in 2007.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.