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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

Stephen Curry on having Jason Collins in locker room: ‘You’d have to think about it’

Jason CollinsJason Collins has received more support than criticism since he came out as openly gay on Monday, but there will still be a number of obstacles he will face going forward. During an appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show” on Tuesday, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry commended Collins for having the “courage” to come out, but also touched on what could become a sticky subject.

While Curry was quick to note that he would never judge someone based on their sexual orientation, he did mention how there would have to be a discussion between Collins and his teammates about how his situation affects the locker room.

“You’d have to think about it, for sure,” Curry said. “Just because you haven’t really crossed that situation before and now it’s in the open. You want everybody to be on the same page about it in the locker room so that there aren’t any underlying problems. I think it’s a conversation that everybody can have.”

Patrick then asked Curry what would happen if the Warriors were to sign Collins next season.

“I think he’s confident enough now to sit in the locker room and have a conversation about if there’s any problems with any individual player … how to make everybody comfortable,” Curry added. “But also not to infringe on any of his rights as well. I don’t know how it would go because the conversation hasn’t happened yet.”

Curry makes a valid point. His opinion is nothing like the one Mike Wallace shared yesterday and he’s not saying the team should hang a sign that reads “no gays allowed” outside its locker room. There should be no elephant in the room. Just as Collins should be free to express himself and feel comfortable with who he is, other players should be able to voice their concerns in a constructive manner.

Hines Ward: Football is not ready for an openly gay player

On Monday, the NBA became the first of the four major American team sports to have an openly gay player when Jason Collins decided to come out. Now, the question on the minds of many people is whether or not any of the other three sports will follow.

Will Collins’ announcement inspire others to come forward and in hopes of gaining acceptance for who they are? Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward does not believe the NFL is ready for that.

“I don’t think football is ready, there’s too many guys in the locker room and, you know, guys play around too much,” Ward told Erik Kuselias on NBC Sports Radio Tuesday morning, via Pro Football Talk. “Hopefully one guy comes out of the closet and [will] be comfortable with himself. I don’t have anything against a gay football player or a gay person period so if he does, he has support from me. I want people to live their lives for who they are and don’t have to hide behind closed doors to do that.”

While there will undoubtedly be people who confuse Ward’s comment for a homophobic remark, he is simply being honest. Because of the physical nature of the game of football and the stereotypes associated with gay men, it might be more of a challenge for a gay NFL player to come out. As Collins said, he goes against many of the “soft” stereotypes that people think of. An NFL player could have even more trouble breaking that mold.

Comments like the ones Mike Wallace made on Monday and the infamous remarks Chris Culliver made before the Super Bowl remind us that not all of the NFL’s players are ready to accept a gay teammate. However, that time may never come unless someone from the NFL follows in Collins’ footsteps.

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Mike Wallace makes insensitive remarks about Jason Collins coming out as gay

Mike Wallace DolphinsOn Monday, veteran NBA center Jason Collins became the first ever athlete from the four major American team sports to come out as gay, and there has been an outpouring of support since the Sports Illustrated story was released to the public. Everyone from Bill Clinton to Kobe Bryant has endorsed Collins and commended him for his courage. Mike Wallace decided to go in the other direction.

Shortly after the internet began buzzing about Collins, the Miami Dolphins receiver sent the following tweet. He deleted it shortly after it was sent, but the folks at The Big Lead were able to capture it first.

Mike-Wallace-Jason-Collins-tweet

What can we even say at this point? While Wallace’s comment was obviously incredibly idiotic, we know better than to be surprised. Whether it’s an MLB pitcher saying a gay teammate would create awkwardness or a former NFL star saying religion makes it wrong, there are always going to be people who stand in the way.

Naturally, Wallace sent out an apology.

Anyone who believes he’s actually sorry is incredibly naive.

Jason Collins comes out as gay

Jason-Collins-CelticsPrior to April 29, 2013, no professional athlete playing one of the four major American team sports was openly gay. Players have come out after retirement, but there was no man on an NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB roster that had ever come out as gay. Washington Wizards center Jason Collins has officially changed that.

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”

In an inspiring story that will appear in the May 6 edition of Sports Illustrated, Collins spoke about his decision to come out and the burden he has had to bear from keeping such a massive secret for more than 34 years. Collins said his decision to come out reached its peak when Massachusetts congressman Joe Kennedy, who happened to be his roommate at Stanford, told him he had marched in the 2012 Gay Pride Parade in Boston.

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Gay kicker Alan Gendreau hoping for NFL tryout

Alan GendreauAlan Gendreau was a standout kicker in college at Middle Tennessee State, and now he’s trying to make it in the NFL. Only Gendreau would be making history if he were able to catch on with a team.

Gendreau was the subject of an excellent profile by Cyd Zeigler at OutSports.com. Gendreau played four seasons at Middle Tennessee State and was openly gay to his teammates and coaches.

During his freshman season, Gentreau was the anonymous subject of a 2009 OutSports.com article in which he revealed he was gay. He said at the time that while he wasn’t advertising his sexuality, he had a boyfriend and his teammates could figure out his preference. He said then and still says that he never once had any problem with his college teammates about being gay.

Gendreau came out to his family when he was 15. He has always been extremely religious, and his mother had him go through five church-based counseling sessions where they attempted to convince him that being gay is wrong and a choice. It didn’t work.

Gendreau has had boyfriends ever since and did not hide that he was gay.

Gendreau was a standout soccer player and kicker in high school, and attended Middle Tennessee State on a scholarship. He became the Sun Belt Conference’s all-time leader in scoring, and he raised his profile after going 28-of-34 in his sophomore and junior seasons. But after a shaky start to his senior season — he went 1-for-5 to begin the year — interest in him waned. He attended a kicking camp after the season and had some interest from agents, but that went away. So did his drive to try catching on with a pro team.

This time around, Gendreau is attempting to give professional football another shot. He is putting in full effort with his training and hoping to get an invitation to kick at OTAs in the next few months. If he were able to catch on with a team, he would be the first openly gay player in the NFL. You can read his full story at OutSports.com.

Photo: YouTube/OutSports

Brittney Griner comes out as gay following WNBA draft (Video)

Brittney-GrinerBrittney Griner is not the first WNBA athlete to come out as gay, but she is probably the most prominent. Griner was one of the most dominant college basketball players of all time during her career at Baylor. As expected, she was selected by the Phoenix Mercury with the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft on Monday.

During an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Maggie Gray on Wednesday, Griner publicly acknowledged that she is a lesbian. While it was the first time she had ever discussed her sexuality so openly, Griner said it was not difficult because it is something she has always embraced and was not trying to hide.

“It really wasn’t too difficult, I wouldn’t say I was hiding or anything like that,” Griner said. “I’ve always been open about who I am and my sexuality. So, it wasn’t hard at all. If I can show that I’m out and I’m fine and everything’s OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way.”

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