NFL gay football players Tom Lawrence Column Carl Nassib Lombardi

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Football is a macho sport, where men clash, grab, push, tackle and chase each other.

He also has a long history of gay gamers. Just like baseball, basketball, golf, and all the other sports and endeavors of mankind. We just didn’t hear about gay people very often because most felt pressured to keep their sexuality private.

Fortunately, that is changing.

Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib turned gay last week and the response has been almost universally positive.

It should be noted that the Pride weekend was marked. In Sioux Falls, the 20th annual event – with the exception of 2020, when it was canceled due to COVID-19 – included multiple events.

It was moved to Cherapa Place downtown to accommodate a large crowd. Nassib’s announcement was surely celebrated.

He wasn’t the only professional athlete who stepped forward and released private information last week, as a star soccer player announced he was a transgender man. Washington Spirit forward Kumi Yokoyama posted a video on his YouTube channel on Sunday.

Nassib, since he plays in the NFL, has received more attention, but President Biden tweeted his congratulations to both. It’s another sign of how our culture is finally embracing diversity and openness.

“To Carl Nassib and Kumi Yokoyama – two prominent and inspiring athletes who stepped out this week: I am so proud of your courage,” said the President. “Thanks to you, countless children around the world see themselves in a new light today.”

This is the important thing. Young people – and older people – are increasingly getting a clear message that we accept and embrace our gay parents, friends and neighbors.

“What’s up folks?” Nassib said in an Instagram video. “I’m at home here in West Chester, Penn. I just want to take a moment to say I’m gay. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable enough to relieve myself. J I really have the best life, I have the best family, the best friends and the best job a guy could ask for.

“I’m a pretty private person, so I hope you know I’m really not doing this to attract attention. I just think representation and visibility are so important. I actually hope like someday. , videos like this and the set The Coming Out Process just isn’t necessary. But until then, I’m going to do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that is accepting, that is compassionate. and I’ll start by donating $ 100,000 to The Trevor Project. “

The Trevor Project is a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth.

Nassib, a second-team All American player, was a star at Penn State. He was named the Big Ten’s best defensive player in 2015 and won the Hendricks Award as the country’s best defensive end and the Lombardi Award for being the best lineman or linebacker in college football.

The Lombardi Award, named in honor of legendary trainer Vince Lombardi, was a bit of a foreshadowing.

Lombardi led the Green Bay Packers to five NFL titles before stepping down as coach after the 1967 season.

He has fully integrated the team in the smallest town in the league and made it clear to the companies that if they discriminate against his black players, the entire Packer organization would have nothing to do with them.

Lombardi, a liberal Democrat, said he viewed his players as “neither black nor white, but Packer green”.

In 1969, he wanted to become a coach again and took the head of the sad Washington team. The team went 7-5-2, but Lombardi suffered from colon cancer and died in the summer of 1970, having laid the groundwork for years of success in Washington.

During his coaching career, he knew he had gay players on his teams. All he cared about was how well they played.

Running back Dave Kopay and tight end Jerry Smith were closed gay players in the 1960s. They also had a brief relationship, according to Kopay, a running back who played for five teams from 1965 to 1972.

It came out in 1975, a courageous statement in an era of widespread homophobia.

Smith was not as open about his sexuality, revealing in August 1986 that he was battling AIDS. He refused to discuss his sexuality before dying two months later.

In 2014, his friend David Mixner told USA Today that Smith lives in terror that his private life will become public.

“He was living in real fear and really alone and terrified of losing everything,” said Mixner, who was gay.

Smith had every right to stay in the closet. Despite his impressive career totals, capturing 421 passes for 5,496 yards in 13 seasons for the Washington NFL franchise, and setting a tight ends record with 60 touchdown passes, he is yet to be named to the Temple of the fame of professional football.

Of course, some people knew about it, including his teammate, roommate and friend Brig Owens, a defensive back. Wide receiver Charley Taylor, a teammate with Smith in college and the pros, said he knew it, as did others.

Taylor, who is in the Hall of Fame, said Washington is a tolerant team. He said that at one point there were maybe as many as a dozen gay players on the team.

Lombardi knew Smith was gay; secrets are hard to keep in a small fraternity like the NFL. But he made it clear on his tight end that it didn’t matter and he supported him completely.

With Lombardi at the helm, Smith enjoyed the best season of his career in 1969, making the first team a pros. Lombardi has recruited other gay players and has made it clear to his assistant coaches and players that any sign of prejudice or homophobia will result in immediate dismissal.

Lombardi had a personal reason for being tolerant. His younger brother Harold “Hal” Lombardi, was gay, and the famous trainer loved him unconditionally.

The great coach’s daughter, Susan Lombardi, said he doesn’t care about the color or sexuality of his players. He wanted to know if they could play winning football.

“As the saying goes, my dad treated them all the same,” she told ESPN in 2013. “Like dogs.”

Because their personal life didn’t matter. Lombardi wanted to win. That’s all that should matter, anyway.

It’s time to be proud of the achievements of the players and everyone. Vince Lombardi knew this decades ago. It just took a long time for the other coaches and teams to catch up.

Fourth-generation South Dakota native Tom Lawrence has been writing about the state since 1978. Contact him at [email protected] and read his blog at sdprairie.blogspot.com.


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