Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 5/3/13

Jason 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. He 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 was also gay, and his 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

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Looks like Lonzo Ball has something to say

Jose Altuve: ‘I literally love Justin Verlander’

Marshawn Lynch suspended one game for contact with official

Chris Paul could miss a month with knee injury

WATCH: LeBron rejects Giannis at the rim with big block

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

15 key questions for NFL Week 7

Vin Scully will not make appearance during World Series

Leonard Fournette still not practicing ahead of Week 7

Dusty Baker calls Nationals dismissal ‘hard to understand’

Draymond Green feels ‘big relief’ that knee injury was minor

Bradford ruled out of Week 7, expected to play again in 2017

Sports & Politics Intersect: Cubs owner up for Heritage Foundation post

The 'Like Mike, only better' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Dodgers finish Cubs while Astros find pain in the Bronx

The 'Some call me the Rocket, some people call me Maurice' quiz

Kyrie Irving must lead Celtics through a disaster in search for happiness

Jacoby Brissett: The forgotten up-and-comer

NFL Week 7 Predictions

The 'Can I have a quick sword with you?' quiz

College football 2017 Week 8 predictions

NFL Referee Hotline Bling: Austin Seferian-Jenkins drops a call

Blackhawks get extra depth on defense with newbies Rutta and Forsling

The 'Old faces in new places' quiz

Packers News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Sports & Politics Intersect: Cubs owner up for Heritage Foundation post

The 'Like Mike, only better' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Dodgers finish Cubs while Astros find pain in the Bronx

The 'Some call me the Rocket, some people call me Maurice' quiz

Kyrie Irving must lead Celtics through a disaster in search for happiness

Jacoby Brissett: The forgotten up-and-comer

NFL Week 7 Predictions

College football 2017 Week 8 predictions

The 'Can I have a quick sword with you?' quiz

NFL Referee Hotline Bling: Austin Seferian-Jenkins drops a call

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker