USTA announces Icon awards recipients

August 31, 2011

FLUSHING, N.Y. — The USTA today proudly announced the recipients of its 2011 ICON Awards, which not only honor individuals and organizations that have made a positive impact on diversity and inclusion in our sport and society, but also emphasize the association’s commitment to fairness and equality. This year’s recipients of the USTA 2011 ICON Awards are Phoenix Suns President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Welts and the Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center of Boston.

The USTA will also pay tribute to the career of Billie Jean King by introducing the inaugural Billie Jean King Legacy Award, which will be presented to an individual whose courage and contributions have helped to change the global cultural landscape. Former New York City Mayor, the Honorable David N. Dinkins, will be the first recipient of the Billie Jean King Legacy Award.

The ICON Awards will take place on September 6 in the Hospitality Pavilion on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York.

This year’s honorees join a list of accomplished individuals who have been recognized by the USTA’s ICON Awards previously known as the Breaking Barriers Awards. They include Arthur Ashe, Baseball Hall-of-Famer Hank Aaron, former USTA President Judy Levering, and AT&T Mobility’s Chief Executive Officer Ralph de le Vega. Their achievements and commitment to removing barriers and creating opportunities for others are the foundation of what the ICON Awards salute.

“The ICON Awards serves as our flagship event to celebrate diversity and inclusion in tennis,” said Gordon Smith, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, USTA. “Those being honored at this momentous event truly embody the spirit of these ideals. With our goal of making tennis look like America, there’s no better place to celebrate their achievements than at the US Open.”

Welts has been the president of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns organization for 10 years and the club’s chief executive officer for three. He supervises all business operations for the Suns and oversees the club’s interests in the management of US Airways Center and the Phoenix Mercury (WNBA). He has held numerous positions in professional sports, ranging from ball boy for the Seattle SuperSonics to chief marketing officer and president of NBA Properties. Among his many achievements, he is credited with the creation of the NBA All-Star Weekend concept in 1984, now a league highlight. He was also responsible for the 1992 Olympics “Dream Team” marketing program as the agent for USA Basketball.

Off the court, Welts made headline news earlier this year when he publicly acknowledged that he is gay, becoming the first senior executive of a men’s professional team sports organization to do so. His willingness to be open about his sexuality makes Rick Welts a true leader in the world of sports.

Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center (STEC) was founded in 1961, and is the first African American Tennis Club in the United States. Its mission is to create an interracial setting where urban youth can develop a healthy, competitive spirit, on and off the tennis court. As a member of the USTA/National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network, STEC also provides an accessible, positive, nurturing environment for more than 1,500 young people in the Boston Community by helping them to advance their tennis game, academic achievement and social skills. It prides itself on serving as a community partner committed to never turning away any child from recreational or instructional tennis for lack of funds. Since its inception, STEC has touched the lives of more than 40,000 kids from and around the Boston community.

David Dinkins served as the 106th Mayor of New York City from 1990 to 1993. He is the first and currently the only African American to serve as the city’s mayor. During his term, Dinkins increased the size of the New York City Police Department, which contributed to a decrease in crime in the city. A former Marine who served in World War II, Dinkins graduated from Howard University with a degree in mathematics. He later earned his Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School. Dinkins was a co-founder of the New York StateBlack & Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus, Council of Black Elected Democrats and 100 Black Men, Inc. He also served as a former vice president of the United States Conference of Mayors.

Dinkins has had an impactful relationship with the USTA and the US Open. In 1978, he played a significant role in assisting the USTA with relocating the US Open from the private club setting of Forest Hills to its current home in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. In 1993, Dinkins helped negotiate a 99-year lease between the USTA and New York City to expand the tennis facility and to build Arthur Ashe Stadium.

As part of its three-year agreement with the USTA, Aetna is a sponsor of the ICON Awards and will present the first-ever Aetna ICON Grants. These new grants will help introduce tennis, education and nutrition components to diverse populations in one afterschool elementary program located in each of the USTA’s 17 National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) Sections. The USTA will provide equipment and training for school leaders to teach tennis to children 10 years old and younger. Aetna employee volunteers will administer the educational components.