There are a litany of ways that attorneys rise to the level of general counsel of a professional sports team. For Clay Allen, the recently appointed general counsel of the Houston Rockets, the journey was about patience and a “dream.”
We recently visited with Allen, who actually grew up in Houston and vividly remembers the championship years, and has become the first openly gay general counsel of a professional sports team.
Question: What does your rise say with regard to being with one organization for so long?
Answer: While I joined the Houston Rockets in 2001, I left for several years to go to law school and then to work at a large law firm in Houston, so my official tenure is 14 years (8 in the legal department, 6 in Marketing). I think my rise within the organization speaks to how much experience and hard work are valued by the team and by our ownership. Along with my promotion, the Rockets also recently promoted Gretchen Sheirr to President and Larry Kaiser to Chief Financial Officer—both of whom have been with the team for over 20 years themselves. Together, the three of us have nearly 60 years of experience within the organization. The future’s bright in Houston, and I’m excited to be part of the continued success of the Rockets and Toyota Center.
Q: What does it say in the LGBTQ with regard to the Rockets, NBA, and pro sports in general?
A: It’s 2021, and while we’ve had a handful of former professional athletes come out after retirement, there are still no openly gay athletes in the big four men’s professional sports. I don’t have much control over what happens on the court, but I hope to have some effect on what happens in the boardroom. It’s important to me that I highlight that I’m a member of the LGBTQ+ community because representation matters. Throughout my career, I’ve been one of only a few gay team members, and that is at least partially due to the lack of representation in sports as a whole. I hope others will see me and my success and know that opportunities exist. Additionally, I am working to provide resources to other LGBTQ+ sports professionals through my role as an advisor to HomeField Alliance, which is a nationwide affinity group for LGBTQ+ sports professionals that offers opportunities for networking and mentorship.