Speculation has run rampant lately about how a gay NFL player would be received by teammates and coaches. The announcement made by NBA veteran Jason Collins has further fueled the ongoing debate. Some have offered words of support while others have condemned Collins for publicly revealing he is gay.
One man who apparently would have been okay with having a gay player on his team was former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. In fact, the legendary coach reportedly knowingly and willingly embraced gay players during a time in which the topic was even more controversial than it is today.
“My father was way ahead of his time,” Susan Lombardi said. “He was discriminated against as a dark-skinned Italian American when he was younger, when he felt he was passed up for coaching jobs that he deserved. He felt the pain of discrimination, and so he raised his family to accept everybody, no matter what color they were or whatever their sexual orientation was. I think it’s great what Jason Collins did, because it’s going to open a lot of doors for people. Without a doubt my father would’ve embraced him, and would’ve been very proud of him for coming out.”Not only did Lombardi accept gay players on his team, but he also went above and beyond to ensure nobody else on the team messed with them. According to an excerpt from the Lombardi biography When Pride Still Mattered, author David Maraniss wrote that the late coach once told one of his assistants to work with a running back named Ray McDonald, who was previously arrested for having intercourse with another man in public, to help him make the team. Lombardi added, "And if I hear one of you people make reference to his manhood, you'll be out of here before your ass hits the ground."
One thing important to note here is that Lombardi's brother Harold was gay. Harold Lombardi passed away in 2011 and left behind a surviving partner of 41 years. Vince Lombardi passed away in 1970 with knowledge of his brother's relationship with another man.
So, if Lombardi and his players could embrace gay peers by adhering to the conservative standards of the 1960s, it isn't far-fetched to believe the same can be done in the 2010s.
Via Pro Football Talk