Dave Kopay born 28 June 1942
Even in 2008, the world of professional sports - especially the major men's team sports - is one of the final closets. David Kopay has achieved fame as a gay icon despite the fact that American Football is a sport only seriously popular in North America.
Kopay was an overachieving player with five National Football League teams from 1964 to 1972. During this time he wrestled with his sexuality and eventually decided to be honest with himself and the public.
Kopay gave an interview in 1975 to the Washington Star in which he declared his homosexuality. He is believed to be the first professional athlete to have taken such a step. In 1977 he wrote his autobiography, The David Kopay Story: An Extraordinary Self-Revelation.
After he retired from the NFL, he was considered a top contender for coaching positions, but was snubbed by professional and college teams because of his sexual orientation. He eventually took over the family business selling and installing floor coverings in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. He is also a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation.
His biography, written with Perry Dean Young, offers insights into the sexual proclivities of heterosexual football players and their homophobia. In 1986, Kopay also revealed his brief affair with Jerry Smith (1943-1986), who played for the Washington Redskins from 1965-1977 and who died of AIDS without ever having publicly come out of the closet.
Since Kopay, only two additional former NFL Players have come out as gay, Roy Simmons in 1992, and Esera Tuaolo in 2002. Kopay has been credited with inspiring these athletes to be more open about their sexual orientation.
Kopay, who remains active as a speaker, is an important figure in that he exemplifies the fact that gay men can and do compete as athletes. He is a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation. He has spoken of his frustration that there was no parade of others who followed his lead. And there never has been.
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