Athlete Dave Kopay — LGBT History Month Day 21


Today’s LGBT History Month icon is athlete Dave Kopay.

Born June 28, 1942, Kopay made headlines in 1975 when he became the first NFL payer and one of the first professional athletes to come out.

Biography via Equality Forum:

The second of four children, Kopay was born in Chicago into a strict Roman Catholic family. When he was in grammar school, the family moved to North Hollywood, California.

Kopay began his football career at Notre Dame High School in Los Angeles, a school known for its championship athletics. He was named to the all-Catholic conference all-star football team. He enrolled at the University of Washington and as team co-captain led the Huskies to the PAC-10 conference title. The following year, he was named an All-American running back.

In 1964, Kopay was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. He was the team’s leading rusher in his rookie year. He played for five NFL teams in his nine-year career, including the Detroit Lions, the Washington Redskins, the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers.

While playing for the Redskins, Kopay had relationships with women and men, including teammate Jerry Smith, who died of AIDS in 1986. At the suggestion of his therapist, Kopay married a woman to try to fix what he perceived as a problem. The marriage lasted a year.

Three years after retiring from the NFL, Kopay came out publicly in an interview with the Washington Star. He shared details about his struggle with homophobia and sports in “The David Kopay Story,” published in 1977. Kopay pursued coaching positions with NCAA and NFL teams, but believes he wasn’t hired because he is gay. Since 1982, he has worked in his family’s business.

Kopay is one of the founding Gay Games Ambassadors, and has been present to support participating athletes and artists at every edition of the Games.

A champion of gay rights for more than 30 years, Kopay has given hundreds of speeches and media interviews. In 2007, he donated $1 million to the University of Washington’s LGBT center.

Despite suffering serious injuries during his football career, Kopay still misses the thrill of playing for the NFL. “There’s nothing like the rush of playing on Monday Night Football,” he says. “There’s nothing that will ever fill that void.”

Kopay resides in Los Angeles.

Below is a recent profile of Dave Kopay in which you can find out more about his career, including more on his best-selling book, and also his life today:





Image taken from the LGBT History Month video, no infringement intended.


Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

That therapist,if still practising, should be revoked of license.
Dave Kopay is a great role model and a hero in his field.

Joe R.
Joe R6 years ago

Read his autobiography - great role model. Thanks for coming out, you are a pioneer!

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal6 years ago

Thanks Dave Kopay, for giving people the opportunity to get over their homophobia and allowing others the freedom to be themselves.

patricia l.
patricia l6 years ago

He is wonderful and hearing about men like him "flies in the face" of the homophobes stereotypes!

Wayne M.
Wayne M6 years ago

I really enjoy this series learning about LGBT people working and living in all kinds of work and areas of human life. These people are true role models for LGBT and questioning youth, a reminder that it is possible to be Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans – and live responsible, caring and positive lives.

Fred Krohn
Fred Krohn6 years ago

More good positive role models. If he's not disrobing and fornicating in public, he's not doing anything wrong with a consenting adult partner. Down with homophobia!

Anne Brabson
Anne B6 years ago

thanks, Steve. I'm not a football fan, but I appreciate the courage it took for this pioneer to come out, especially in a sport that has had the reputation for being homophobic...

Hillary K.
Hillary K6 years ago

Dave Kopay you are truly an inspiration!! thank you for having the courage to do what you did :)

Allan Yorkowitz
.6 years ago

Dave Kopay's story when he came out in the late 70's, set not only football reeling, but all other sports. I remember how huge his coming out was.

Tim Cheung
Tim C6 years ago

Thanks Steve