Cheers for Carl Nassib Show a Changing Football Culture
With a mixture of delight and wonder, Kopay watched it all unfold from his apartment in Palm Springs, California.
“Watching all of this, seeing the reaction to Carl’s announcement, it gives me a wave of contentment,” he said. “But I have to say I thought it would happen 40 years ago.”
He noted the clutch of retired NFL players who have recently made their gender identities known publicly, and the sheer number of female sports like basketball and tennis. But an active player coming out to the NFL, a league still steeped in a soup of toxic masculinity and macho posture? For Kopay, a seeker of real change in sports, this has always been the holy grail.
“I thought when I came out it wouldn’t be long before the league players followed me,” he said. “But I had to wait. Oh, did I have to wait.
Kopay, who was a running back, recalled the 1960s and 1970s, when he lined up for a series of teams during an NFL career that spanned nearly a decade. . He did not hide his sexuality. Most of his teammates and coaches knew that. He remembers that Vince Lombardi, who coached Kopay in Washington, was particularly supportive.
But to become public? No chance.
Years later, Sam tried to break that mold. When he spoke his truth after his final season in Missouri, a profound societal change was underway. A little over a year later, the Supreme Court would finally legalize same-sex marriage in the United States.
Yet the football world was not ready. On the night of the draft, TV cameras zoomed in as Sam kissed her boyfriend on national television. Cue the bleating anger of some fans, the loathing of weak knees from some backsliding corners of the league.
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