Vince Lombardi Supported Gay Players

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Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi

This seems like a revelation to just about everyone, but if you’ve read anything about legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, it shouldn’t be. He supported gay players.

The story has come out in the wake of Jason Collins’ announcement and LeRoy Butler’s support — the iconic, hard-nosed football coach from another era not tolerating discrimination based on sexual preference.

Before his time, perhaps, but if you know anything about Lombardi, it’s that he didn’t tolerate discrimination of any kind. He created an environment in small-town Green Bay where black players were accepted at a time when they weren’t on many other teams in the NFL. He treated everyone the same and demanded the same from his employees.

“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.”

People have suggested the reason Lombardi was so progressive — other than his own experiences with discrimination — was because his brother Harold was gay.

“Through Hal and in what I’d read and seen, Vin was always fair in how he treated everybody,” said Richard Nicholls, Harold’s longtime partner. “I just thought he appeared to be a great man who accepted people at face value for what they were, and didn’t judge anybody. He just wanted you to do the job.”

“I take a great deal of pride in the fact that, at a time when this was still cutting-edge stuff, my father was able to see through all of that and treated people as they deserved to be treated,” Vince Lombardi Jr. said. “He saw everyone as equals, and I think having a gay brother was a big factor in his approach.”

There weren’t a lot of gay players in Lombardi’s day and there obviously weren’t any who were openly gay, but there were a few.

Dave Kopay was a running back on the Washington Redskins team Lombardi coached. He didn’t come out until 1975, but had a relationship with teammate Jerry Smith while playing under Lombardi. Another running back on that team, Ray McDonald, was known to be gay as well. In the book “When Pride Still Mattered,” Lombardi is quoted as telling the assistant coaches tasked to work with McDonald, “And if I hear one of you people make reference to his manhood,” Lombardi says, “you’ll be out of here before your ass hits the ground.”

In some ways, Lombardi’s legend continues to grow. If you want to read Ian O’Connor’s story, go here.

About The Author

Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.

21 Comments on "Vince Lombardi Supported Gay Players"

  1. TyKoSteamboat

    Seriously. Who cares about an athlete’s sexual preference.

    Maybe it’s the “liberal Colorado” talking, but it doesn’t & shouldn’t matter.

    • More likely it’s just being a decent human being. Because it’s certainly not the “liberal Texas” talking when I say I completely agree, haha. :P

    • Mike R

      Why the hell you disappointed Chad? Jesus, what the hell is wrong with you? Monty is right, this only grows the Lombardi Legend. It makes me extremely proud to be a Packer/Lombardi fan, to know that in those times, Lombardi didn’t give a shit about peoples race or sexuality, just accepted people for who they are.

      I agree that the Jason Collins thing is maybe getting a little too much play, but it is a fairly big deal, and deserves a little coverage. If it wasn’t a big deal, plenty of people in pro sports would have been opening gay for a long time now, but the fact of the matter is, that know one else has, at least until after they were done with their career. It took some balls for Collins to admit it, and he deserves credit for that.

      • Chad Lundberg

        If Vince really was just accepting people for who they were, that’s totally fine with me. My brother had a lesbian best friend, I have a gay coworker, and have known several gay people, and I never let them think that they were inferior in any way.

        But to be called a “champion of gay rights”, that implies that he must have supported same-sex marriage, or at least people profoundly believe he did. Supporting same-sex marriage is where I draw the line.

        • Phatgzus

          Why are you quoting “champion of gay rights”? You’re the only mentioning that. The fact is he may not have been an active advocate, but he was still a champion of the movement in the sense that he supported them for who they were, equal human beings, and if you had a problem with someone simply on that basis, he had no tolerance for you,

          By the way, knowing someone with a certain race, creed, or sexual orientation does not make you accepting or less bigoted; same goes for not denigrating them. Simply because you didn’t actively make them feel inferior does not mean you don’t believe they are, from your statements it appears you do believe they are inferior, which, if true, is a sad indictment of yourself.

    • therealChuckywasCecil

      what the hell could be disappointing to you? that a man treated his players based on their skills and contributions and not on the sexual orientation they were born with? I’m with Mike R, while I didn’t know this previously, it only adds to the Lombardi legend.

      • Chad Lundberg

        If I have to leave because others don’t agree with my views, wouldn’t that mean that I’m being discriminated against? Don’t you think that if that happened to me, it would be hypocritical of the group that preaches so much tolerance decided that I wasn’t good enough to be around them?

        • Mike R

          Chad, you don’t really understand what the word discrimination means. Since you don’t here is the definition

          Treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit

          Bad argument man, definitely not discrimination.

          The 19th amendment wasn’t passed until the early 1900’s, and I am sure there were plenty of hill-billies arguing that women shouldn’t be able to vote. The supreme court ruled in the late 1960’s that states could no longer ban interracial marriage, much to the dismay of the same hill-billies’ families arguing against women’s right to vote, I assume. Do you think gay people are born gay? If the answer is yes, why should they be denied the right to be married, it is who they are? If the answer is no, then wake the fuck up and consider moving to some compound in Texas that will hopefully get fire bombed by the FBI someday. Whatever reason you are using to justify your belief, just look back at history, and think about what you are saying. Do you want to be known as one of the stupid bigots that believed something like that, which 30 years from now people will undoubtedly look back and wonder how the fuck this was ever an issue (same as the 2 examples I listed and many others not listed).

          Oh, and fuck you for making me argue for gay marriage on this website. Go Packers!

        • Phatgzus

          As Mike said below, I am not discriminating against you, I am making a judgement about you based on a certain (outmoded) viewpoint you have (that is an example of judgement based on merit). Now if I were telling you to get out of here because you’re gay or just plain duh-umb, THEN I would be discriminating.

          Feel free to stay around, but don’t expect to be welcome if you continue to be so negative, obtuse, and close-minded.

  2. the real russ letlow

    “if you know anything about Lombardi, it’s that he didn’t tolerate discrimination of any kind.” this really says it all about the man. No special treatment for any “group” of people. Everyone, regardless, was treated with the respect and dignity due every human being.

    • Mike R

      Dipshit, being straight and liking girls has been the “norm” since the beginning of time. Being gay has really only started to become accepted by the majority in the last 10 years. I am straight and married, but went to middle/high school with a guy that came out at the age of 25. He was lying for 15-20 years about his sexuality, because he didn’t want to face the potential ridicule he would for being openly gay. I haven’t ever gone through that, but I think anyone who isn’t a complete idiot can understand what it may be like, and the difference between being openly straight and openly gay. There is no comparison.

    • Phatgzus

      Not really, as for one irony does not possess orders of magnitudes, just varieties of; either it’s ironic or not, one contradictory instance can’t be more ironic than another.
      If anything, it is recursive.

      Secondly, it is not intolerance of the individual being expressed, it is intolerance of that individuals particular viewpoint.

      Thirdly, and primarily, why would any right-minded individual abide illogical intolerance driven by bigotry; by that logic MLK, Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony, John Brown, Patrick Turner, Frederick Douglass, etc. were all victims of irony.

  3. Chad Lundberg is a bigot

    Chad Lundberg is a bigot. He is more than welcome to go back to his hole in the ground and pull the rock back over it.

    BTW, bigots can’t be discriminated against. Keep being afraid of things you don’t understand. Closed minded dick!

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