Thursday, June 28, 2018

Happy Birthday to One of the First Pro Athletes to Come Out As Gay, NFL Running Back David Kopay


David Kopay was born today, June 28, in 1942. He is a former American football running back in the National Football League who in 1975 became one of the first professional athletes to come out as gay.


Kopay attended Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California. He entered the University of Washington in 1961. He was on the West roster as a halfback at the All-America East vs. West Football Game in 1964. He was signed by the San Francisco 49ers. He played professional football from 1964 to 1972. 

After he retired from the NFL, he was considered a top contender for coaching positions, but he believes he was snubbed by professional and college teams because of his sexual orientation. He went to work as a salesman/purchaser in his uncle's floorcovering business in Hollywood. He is also a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation.

His 1977 biography, The David Kopay Story, written with Perry Deane Young, became a best-seller. In 1986, Kopay revealed his brief affair with Jerry Smith (without naming him), 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 four additional former NFL Players have come out as gay, Roy Simmons in 1992, Esera Tuaolo in 2002, Wade Davis in 2012 and Kwame Harris in 2013. Kopay has been credited with inspiring these athletes to be more open about their sexual orientation.

Kopay appears as himself in a small but pivotal role in the film Tru Loved (2008). His scene features young actor Matthew Thompson and Alexandra Paul.

Kopay became a Gay Games Ambassador for the Federation of Gay Games. He came to Gay Games VII in Chicago in July 2006 and was a featured announcer in the opening ceremonies.

Kopay announced in September 2007 that he will be leaving $1 million as an endowment to the University of Washington Q Center.

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