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Vince Lombardi accepted, protected gay players on his team

Vince LombardiJason Collins coming out as gay this week was a breakthrough because he became the first active professional athlete in major American team sports to come out. There have been many questions about how he and other gay players would be accepted by coaches, players and teammates, especially in the close-knit setting of a sports locker room. Hines Ward has said he does not think the NFL is ready for a gay player. If that’s the case, then he is about 45 years late to the party, because Vince Lombardi apparently knew he had gay players on his team in the late-’60s, and protected and accepted them.

ESPN New York columnist Ian O’Connor conducted an interview with Lombardi’s daughter who says her father was way ahead of his time when it came to preaching equal treatment for all.

“My father was way ahead of his time,” Susan Lombardi told ESPN New York. “He was discriminated against as a dark-skinned Italian American when he was younger, when he felt he was passed up for coaching jobs that he deserved. He felt the pain of discrimination, and so he raised his family to accept everybody, no matter what color they were or whatever their sexual orientation was.”

O’Connor says that Lombardi worked with at least five gay men on his 1969 Washington Redskins team — three players and two executives. The coach is quoted in his biography, “When Pride Still Mattered,” by author David Maraniss, as protecting running back Ray McDonald, who was gay.

“And if I hear one of you people make reference to his manhood,” Lombardi is quoted as telling one of his assistants, “you’ll be out of here before your ass hits the ground.”

Lombardi’s late brother, Harold, was also gay, and Harold’s partner of 41 years says the coach lent his brother unconditional love and support.

Former running back Dave Kopay played for Lombardi’s Redskins in 1969, and he became the first player to come out following his playing days. Kopay was in a relationship with the team’s tight end, Jerry Smith, who never came out but was widely known to be gay. Kopay says he feels strongly that Lombardi knew he was gay.

“Lombardi protected and loved Jerry,” Kopay told O’Connor.

Lombardi also protected his African-American players during a time when there was still a lot of tension over civil rights. He refused to let his team frequent restaurants, bars or hotels where equal services were not offered to black players.

As Lombardi’s daughter said, her father treated everyone equally — like dogs. Maybe treating people like dogs isn’t so great, but not discriminating against people because of their skin color, culture, or sexual orientation is just about what any athlete could ask for.

H/T Pro Football Talk



Around The Web

  • neverhome

    Just one more way Lombardi was a winner.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    Absolutely, neverhome. And great article, Mr. Brown.

    It’s amazing how treating others as we would want to be treated always turns out to be the best choice.

  • rick

    I was teenager when Lombardi was a winning coach. I always loved watching the Packers and later the Redskins win. I had a lot of respect for the man. This just confirms my respect.

  • Mark Peterson

    When Lombardi stood against anyone ridiculing, taunting or making fun of people with same-sex orientation, he was following the teachings of the Catholic Church. It is a sin to taunt or make fun of another human being, made in the image and likeness of God. However, the Church also teaches that those of same-sex orientation are called to be chaste. I realize this is a very, very difficult thing in today’s sex-saturated culture, but it is what the Church teaches. The point is, it is possible to stand strong against ridiculing and mocking those with same-sex orientation, while at the same time praying for them to remain chaste.

  • neverhome

    I honestly mean no disrespect, but the church (all faiths – not just Catholic) has no business trying to dictate right and wrong. The church has a habit of conflicting with human nature. It is human nature to desire sex, be it heterosexual or homosexual. And there is no moral reason for consenting adults to be “chaste.” The so-called “great religions” have drilled this nonsense into people’s heads for centuries, with threats of burning, eternal torment for those who don’t tow the line.

    Christians grab potential converts early, led into the House of Indoctrination while still young children by well-meaning but misguided parents. To tell a little child that there’s this bottomless pit of fire, and that they’ll burn in it forever if they don’t embrace your supposed savior, should be considered child abuse. It’s absolutely criminal to mess up young minds with such vicious lies. Of course, if you wait until they’re older you’ll never convince them. You have to corrupt their thinking processes while they’re young and impressionable (before reason and logic take hold).

    Humans are quite capable of being good or bad without ever “knowing” the Christian’s God or anyone else’s. Religion is a creation of Man and if there is a higher intelligence (a possibility) involved with the origins of life on Earth, then He / She / It likely has better things to do than micromanage our lives.

  • neverhome

    Yep. It certainly makes life simpler.

  • gun dude

    Higher intelligence ever comes to town is going to do one of two things, pat us on the rear end and tell us to move forward or destroy all of us. Either way your life is going to be micromanaged.

  • neverhome

    Why do you think so? Given the incredibly diverse scope of beliefs, cultures and ethnicity on the planet I’d say we’re closer to chaos than order.

    Certainly there’s evidence of life here having been engineered. But micromanaged? I don’t think so.

    Nevertheless, it’s an interesting topic of discussion.

  • E3

    I wish you people would stop acquainting genetic dark skin with a chosen lifestyle!
    Let’s start acquainting light skin with masochists.
    Blacks and gays, whites and masochists.

  • Ray Gay Gray

    The President is gay ~ AC/DC or Whatever…. Last week’s phone call is the real him…

  • Will Thompson

    Christians grab converts early. And so do the gay community! What was the famous line from the movie the “Blues Brothers?”, How much for your children? We Christians are to point our children to the life/example and teachings of Christ, but are to never compromise the Holiness of God whether privately or publicly. Yes men and women have an inclination for sex. God Made Sex! But He established boundaries for relationships between the sexes, i.e. male and female, holy matrimony between a man and a woman being the only standard for sexual union. Also you fail to understand in God’s Word found in the Bible the contrast between God’s nature/His life He provides for those who call upon His name and the impact of sin on the human race. God revealed Himself to many biblical characters showing us our condition in the light of His Holiness. It is He who is showing us right and wrong in the midst of our sin/chaos/error and pointing us to salvation, salvation in Christ. He uses imperfect creatures to point us to a perfect God. The only one being perfect, i.e. well pleasing in all that He said and did was, Jesus, who is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. We Christians will continue to point men and women to Jesus, warn them about the horrors of hell, the eternal bliss of heaven, and God’s ONLY standard of sexual union, holy matrimony between a man and a woman!

  • neverhome

    You said: “Christians grab converts early. And so do the gay community!”

    False. Homosexuals are born to their condition. Some wrongfully attempt to suppress their true nature, but most eventually face the reality of what they are and live better lives as a result. The only “converting” the gay community does is to try to get others to be more accepting of them. And they have that right.
    —————————————————-

    You said: “…He established boundaries for relationships between the sexes, i.e. male and female, holy matrimony between a man and a woman being the only standard for sexual union.”

    False. Marriage existed centuries before Christianity. The church didn’t get involved in marriage until about 1200 years ago. The Bible mentions marriage here and there, but does not define any sort of ceremony or other requirement. The Bible’s spittle-spewing rants about “men who lay with men” is just proof that there were bigots in Biblical times, too.
    ——————————————————

    You said: “It is He who is showing us right and wrong…”

    False. You’re reading from your Bible and living by the scriptures. I respect that. But the Bible is nothing more than a collection of stories written by primitive men. If you’re going to believe it, you might as well believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny, too. How we conduct ourselves is the result of empathy and what degree of character we have. You are perfectly capable of being a good and decent person without depending upon the crutch of religion.
    ——————————————————-

    You said: “We Christians will continue to point men and women to Jesus, warn them about the horrors of hell…”

    Sad, this. Your god, if He is real, is a genocidal maniac. He’s killed untold millions via the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah and other atrocities. He provides a place for eternal torment for those who don’t tow His line. And you claim to love and worship Him. To me, that makes you party to the various acts of death and destruction your loving God has supposedly committed. You cannot worship Him without approving of His crimes against humanity. You might as well be recruiting for the Taliban.

  • Mark Peterson

    The Catholic Church’s teachings come from Jesus Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus said would guide the Church into all truth. The Church is in the business of guiding people as to right or wrong because it received its teachings from Jesus, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    Yes, it is human nature to desire sex, and the Church teaches that sex is a good and beautiful thing in its proper place, which is in the context of the marriage of one man and one woman. And yes, there are moral reasons for consenting adults to be chaste. Would if be good for me or for my wife if I, a married man, had unlimited sex with every woman to whom I am attracted? Would that not at some point cause pain for me, my wife, and the other women with whom I had sex? Is it not true that unlimited sex among consenting adults would at some point lead to jealousy, pain, or perhaps even murder?

    If my wife were to somehow become incapacitated, would it not be a beautiful thing for me to remain chaste, to deny myself sex with other women, and to remain devoted to my wife even though it’s not possible for us to have sexual intercourse anymore?

    Neverhome, I’d like to ask: What do you think of Jesus? What is your view of what he said and what he did? I think he is the most fascinating figure to have ever walked the earth. I believe in him because I believe in love and forgiveness, and I believe that Jesus, fully God and fully man, is the source of the greatest joys in this life, even through sorrow and pain.

    I also believe, though, that religion should not be forced down people’s throats. Jesus never did that. When people walked away from him he let them go. He gave them the freedom to follow him or to walk away. Sharing your faith with others should never be an “indoctrination.”

  • neverhome

    It’s late and I’m tired, but I’ll throw in a quick answer before I retire…

    As to Jesus, it’s entirely possible that a man named Jesus existed and preached the Gospel. But as to his being the Son of God, being born to a virgin, etc, that’s pure myth.

    And you don’t have to be a Christian to be faithful to your spouse. Adultery and divorce are just as prevalent among Christians as any other part of our culture. It all comes down to love and respect, and both are possible without being Christian.

    And the Christian Right does in fact try to force-feed its beliefs to others. The so-called “War on Marriage” the Right keeps ranting about is a good example. The only war on marriage I have seen is the war Christians are waging to make sure gays are denied the same rights as the rest of us.

  • jim

    Gays are not converts any more than straights, they simply are.

  • Susan

    And so what if he was. He would still be more of a man than you.

  • Will Thompson

    Genocidal maniac? I always love that one! God did not institute sin and death into the human sphere. But He does use it to show His power! Humans instituted death into this arena, get this given to us. God has power over death, sin and evil, but provides His life in our spirits if we can receive it! As for His crimes against humanity, does the clay say to the potter how to mold it? We abort babies, murder one another, perform ungodly acts upon one another, accept behavior that is clearly against, God, nature, and then judge the One who created us. How can one in darkness ever claim he or she is walking in light, if they have ever seen or even perceived it? To even hint at the One “who does not change, is transcendent, eternal light, and whose substance is glorious” if I can say this, reveal who is really genocidal, a maniac, establishing standards that cannot produce His life on their best day! Science? Not! Math? Not! So called mans intelligence? Definitely Not!

  • Will Thompson

    The Christian Right if anything has tried to remind many our nations heritage. And it is not built on sexual immorality! Read Matthew 11:21-24. Jesus words against the cities that rejected His Word. And Christians of all political persuasions believe God’s original intent for Creation. As for denying rights, I pity any nation that justifies sexual immorality by calling it a civil right, That nation has one foot on a banana peel and the other already in the grave with NO understanding of it’s spiritual lethargy/ dullness and eternal destiny. You need to realize this recent issue could not exist until we jettisoned a Judeo/Christian ethic as it relates to fornication (pre-marital sex). And get this it started at the close of the Civil Rights movement which was led by Christian Ministers! So when you mention the rights of gays you need to take a objective look at how our nation has changed its values, what we perceive as TRUTH, and what side of the cultural divide you want to be on. They may win the battle, and even the war, but in the words of Paul Harvey, we need “the rest of the story.” And it will not be determined by SCOTUS, but the God of Truth who has revealed Himself through the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth. Our nation is on the precipice of eternity and what we choose today will determine our destiny tomorrow. Remember, your first compromise could be your last!

  • neverhome

    Will, please. You and your ilk need to wake up and smell the coffee. There is no magic sky-daddy watching over you. There is no Heaven, no Hell, no Satan. The Bible is a work of fiction and should be labeled as such.

    And even if your deity was real, you have done nothing but reinforce my contentions of His evil by saying that He uses death to show His power. So did Hitler and Stalin, by the way. There will be no Divine retribution because of gay marriage. Sodom and Gomorrah were not the result of Divine retribution, either. That was a natural disaster resulting from the hot plume of a small asteroid that smacked into a mountainside some distance away. Don’t take my word for it – look it up yourself. It’s well-known.

    It’s embarrassing to see adults spitting all over themselves while spewing this drivel. Grow a spine Will, and recognize that you are on your own. When your heart stops beating, your brain, which is in essence an organic / electric machine, will stop processing data. And you will no longer exist. There is no reason to believe that some spirit or ghost will arise from your cooling corpse and journey off to Paradise. You will simply cease to be.

    I have too much respect for Mr. Lombardi’s memory to continue entertaining this superstitious nonsense at this article. If you wish to continue spewing this psychobabble, then by all means continue. I won’t be here.