David Kopay remembers his playing days at the University of Washington, and the fight he found himself in, off the field.
“I was really, um, denying that I could be homosexual,” says Kopay, who played for the Huskies in the 1960s. “There were all sorts of objects in the way for me to be honest with myself, and I wasn’t, and I think it played on me, and defeated me.”
He acknowledged his sexuality after a 10-year NFL playing career, and is widely considered the first professional athlete from a major team sport to publicly announce he is gay. He’s now rooting for Michael Sam.
The former collegiate football star has entered the NFL draft, and in February, declared that he is a also a gay man.
“It makes no sense why he wouldn’t be drafted,” says Dr. Jen Self, who is the director of the "Q Center," a resource and support center at the UW for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students. She says she’ll be watching to see if Sam is drafted for his work on a field, and/or judged for his preferences on it. “I think he’ll be drafted higher,” she says.
Not all agree. Draft pundits have suggested that Sam could be taken low in the draft, or not at all.
Seahawks General Manager John Schneider said Tuesday about Sam, “He’s a heck of a pass rusher.”
Hawks coach Pete Carroll said Sam would be welcome in his locker room.
“He’s a tremendous football player,” said Carroll. “Gonna be a big contributor, and uh, he’d fit in our locker room, and be a terrific addition, if we could be fortunate to get him on our team.”
“I think Coach Carroll has been ahead of folks in a lot of ways, and the need to compete, and let his players compete,” says Kopay, who now lives in Southern California and believes the same holds true for any NFL locker room. “I think it’ll be a non issue, I really do.”
Kopay has also pledged $1 million to the Q Center, to help provide the resources for the next Kopay, or Sam, or whomever may need it.
“For him to give back money to a place that may not have felt like home, but did feel like home because the center existed, was an act of forgiveness,” says Self.