Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2015-07-29
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


  WINDY CITY TIMES

Sports Complex
The Gay Gridiron
by Jim Provenzano
2003-12-31

facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email


Pictured: Jerry Smith Who was the first gay football player to play in the Super Bowl? Esera Tuaolo, who came out last year, played for the Atlanta Falcons in the 1998 Super Bowl, but he wasn't the first. Neither was Roy Simmons, a Washington Redskins offensive guard, who played at the 1984 game. He later came out on a 1992 episode of The Phil Donahue Show, and as HIV-positive in a 2003 New York Times article.

If you're thinking David Kopay, you're close. Go back a little further to learn the story of another Redskin, one of football's most accomplished players, gay or straight: Jerry Smith.

Kopay, who played for five teams during his 10-year career (unfortunately, no Super Bowl) says that four members of the 1969 and 1970 Redskins were gay or bisexual. For a time, Jerry Smith was his lover.

Smith was born in 1943 in Livermore, Calif., and raised Catholic. A Redskins tight end from 1965 to 1977, he caught 421 passes and scored 60 touchdowns in his career—a record unsurpassed until just last year. Smith was the league's third best in pass receptions.

When Kopay joined the Redskins in 1969, he recalls one of his co-captains encouraging his friendship with Smith. 'Supposedly the guys didn't know I was queer, but maybe they did,' Kopay told me. 'They'd say [about Jerry], 'He's a guy who thinks a lot like you. You guys are gonna have fun together.' We became close friends, being on the same offensive team. We had to compliment each other on blocking schemes and pass patterns.'

Kopay says that Redskins Coach Vince Lombardi was a great mentor to both players, and had a relative and two staff members who were gay. In the book Run to Win: Vince Lombardi on Coaching and Leadership, Smith is quoted as saying, 'All the things a man searches for all his life I found in Coach Lombardi.'

Could it have been Lombardi's enlightened attitude that helped Smith's career in an otherwise homophobic sport? Kopay says, 'I think in today's world, Lombardi would react [to gay players] totally different than a lot of people think he would. He was very compassionate, loving—he loved Jerry.'

Understandably, despite some acceptance, 'Jerry was guarded at first,' says Kopay. During their early friendship, Smith lived with Joe Blair in Silver Springs, Md.

'He was well-respected among his peers, so I became accepted because Jerry accepted me,' says Kopay, who credits Smith—blond, affable, and 'California casual'—with helping him accept his sexuality. '

Jerry lived life big,' Kopay says. Visiting discos and bars along their travels, Smith charmed men, and occasionally women, into one-night encounters. He was charismatic, yet unwilling to get emotionally involved with Kopay.

'He didn't want to recognize it as a relationship, just purely a physical release,' says Kopay. Smith believed a gay relationship 'would probably be impossible,' and his liaison with Kopay lasted only part of a season.

Smith had affairs with several other NFL players, too. In the off-season, he traveled through Europe. More than a mere playboy, though, Smith also worked in a summer camp for inner-city kids.

After being cut from the team, Kopay parted ways with Smith, who continued playing with the Redskins for eight more years. Reporting on his performance in the 1973 Super Bowl VII, Sports Illustrated described Smith, then 29, as 'an outstanding receiver among tight ends, with the ability to break open for a long gain.' Then in 1975 came a Washington Star article, which claimed that three NFL starting quarterbacks were gay. Kopay says one of the unnamed sources was Smith. Kopay called the reporter and came out in a subsequent article. One of the first people Kopay heard from after his coming out was Smith. Doing his best Vince Lombardi imitation, Smith told Kopay over the phone, 'You're really something, Mister. You're really something.'

As Kopay garnered international attention following the publication of his autobiography, he also became a symbol that defied stereotypes. A screenplay based on his book is in development.

Indirectly, Jerry Smith may have been responsible for inspiring the first former pro gay athlete to officially come out, paving the way for dozens more in other sports. And yet, Smith himself never really came out. After retiring from football, he lived in different cities and co-owned The Boathouse, a gay bar in Austin, Texas. Before dying of AIDS on Oct. 15, 1986, Smith acknowledged having the disease. Despite the importance of his being the first former pro athlete to die of AIDS, The New York Times shunted the story to a back page.

In 2003, the Denver Broncos' Shannon Sharpe was entered into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio—for outdoing Smith's record of 60 by one touchdown. It's almost as if the Hall of Fame had been waiting for someone to surpass Smith, rather than give posthumous honors to the fascinating yet elusive man who held the record for nearly 25 years. Jim Provenzano is the author of the novels PINS and Monkey Suits. Read more sports articles at www.sportscomplex.org . He can be reached care of this publication or at SportsComplex@qsyndicate.com .


facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

LETTERS Let the Games begin 2015-07-29
Torch carried by Jenner to be auctioned 2015-07-29
Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame honorees inducted 2015-07-29
VEHICLE REVIEW BMW 335i GT xDrive improves the quintessential sports sedan 2015-07-28
Upcoming: Sports hall of fame; Auction of Jenner torch; AIDS Run & Walk 2015-07-22
Upcoming: Red Stars' Pride; Sports hall of fame; 'CLLAW XXII' 2015-07-16
Caitlyn Jenner accepts Arthur Ashe Award at ESPYs 2015-07-15
Ride For AIDS Chicago raises $600,000 2015-07-13
Tennis player's anti-gay comments start backlash 2015-07-12
Daughter of Gay Games founder opposes merge with World Outgames 2015-07-09
Participants prepare for Ride for AIDS Chicago 2015-07-07
Women's World Cup win shines into LGBT community 2015-07-07
Entertainment: Ellen DeGeneres; Beyonce; Michael Sam; Dolly Parton 2015-07-07
Stanley Cup makes the rounds in Boystown over Pride weekend; CGHA celebrates 2015-07-01
Gay sports news 2015-07-01
National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame July 24 2015-06-30
Chicago Force cruise to playoff win over Cleveland, 71-12 2015-06-27
Stanley Cup confirmed: Blackhawks' championship trophy in Pride Parade 2015-06-26
UK native Sarah Outen on homestretch of four-year adventure 2015-06-24
UIC honors out former softball standout Charbonneau 2015-06-24
Force playoff game June 27 at Lane Stadium 2015-06-23
Upcoming: Proud to Run, Pride 5K, Hall of Fame noms 2015-06-23
World: Soccer star comes out; 'Thrones' criticized; activist fined 2015-06-23
Snagging the Stanley Cup at the Pride Parade 2015-06-21
WNBA All-Star Balloting 2015 to include all current WNBA players 2015-06-17
Upcoming in music, sports, art, comedy 2015-06-17
Blackhawks win 2015 Stanley Cup, third title in six years 2015-06-16
Chicago Force coast to final regular-season victory over St. Louis 2015-06-14
Michael Sam's future in flux 2015-06-14
Proud to run announces start times, team categories 2015-06-10
Upcoming: Second City Tennis Classic; Chicago Pride Classic calls for volunteers 2015-06-10
Griner files for annulment 2015-06-10
Former Chicago trans athlete Mosier on U.S. National Men's Team 2015-06-09
Late gay baseball player Burke to be honored 2015-06-03
Upcoming: Tennis; Hockey; Casino Royale; DJ competition; Takei; Knuckles CD 2015-06-03
Jenner on cover of Vanity Fair: Call me 'Caitlyn' 2015-06-01
In the Life: Mack Savage 2015-05-27
Michael Sam signs with Canadian team 2015-05-22
The wild life of Joe Putignano Olympic dreams, drug addiction 2015-05-20
Chicago Force receiver featured in new football cards 2015-05-20
 



Copyright © 2015 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.