Dave Kopay was a running back for the San Francisco 49ers (1964–1967), Detroit Lions (1968),Washington Redskins (1969–1970), New Orleans Saints (1971) and the Green Bay Packers (1972). While with the Washington Redskins, he had an affair with teammate Jerry Smith, a star tight end for the team from 1965-1977. In 1975, three years after his career in football had ended, Kopay gave an interview to the Washington Star where he came out of the closet. He may have been be the first professional athlete to do so. It was while playing for the Redskins under legendary coach Vince Lombardi that Kopay and Smith had their relationship.
He wrote a memoir The David Kopay Story: An Extraordinary Self-Revelation (1977), a bestseller that currently in its 6th printing. The book remains a perennial favorite with guys grappling with their gayness, especially queer jocks.
In an interview, Kopay told ESPN about his romance with Smith, calling it his first real coming-out experience. Smith was taken by the plague in 1987. He was 43-years-old and he never publicly acknowledged that he was gay.
When Kopay stayed in San Francisco after his book tour ended, he was celebrated in Castro district. Armistead Maupin (Tales Of The City), let him stay with him; journalist Randy Shilts and Harvey Milk became his friends.
At the 2006 Gay Games VII in Chicago, Kopay was the featured announcer in the opening ceremonies. He works as a motivational speaker, and in 2007, he announced that he would be leaving $1 million to his alma mater the University of Washington Q Center, a resource and support center for LGBTQ students and faculty.
While some opportunities came along after Kopay came out, he has written about all the that doors were slammed in his face because of this decision. Seeking employment following his playing career, Kopay was denied any coaching job in football because he was gay. For all the resumes and letters he sent out, only Bart Starr, then the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, even bothered to respond with a “No, thank you”. Kopay:
I couldn’t get a job after I spoke out, I couldn’t even get an interview. It was terrible.
The NFL offered no comment on The David Kopay Story, just as it had no place for Kopay once his playing ended 1973.
At least four players and a manager of the Washington Redskins football team turned out to be gay: Kopay, Smith, Wade Davis and Roy Simmons, and General Manager was David Slattery.
He is still hot. Kopay lives in Los Angeles and Seattle, and he still receives hundreds of letters from fans of his book.