Gay Ex-NFL Player Public Again

Lineman Roy Simmons Breaks His 12-Year Silence

(This story was published in 2003).

(2006 Update: Simmons on which NFL player he would "do," kill and marry)

Also: Simmons accuses NFL of discrimination)

Roy Simmons is only one of three former NFL players to publicly disclose his homosexuality. And until Sunday he was the most invisible.

Simmons, an offensive lineman with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins from 1979-84, came out as gay on the Phil Donahue show in 1992, then promptly disappeared. No more stories would appear about Simmons for the next 12 years.

Simmons, 47, broke his silence in an interview in the New York Times (strangely, the story ran in the Style section, not Sports) and his story is a compelling tale of a star athlete who hit rock bottom and is trying to get back up.

In the Times story, we learn this about Simmons:

  • He is HIV-positive.
  • He was raped by a neighbor when he was 11.
  • He was in drug rehabilitation twice for drugs and alcohol and has been sober for two years.
  • He once came close to jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • He has been homeless for a brief time.

Writer Maureen Orth tells why Simmons has decided to become more visible: “Mr. Simmons said he wants to reach athletes who may still be in the closet and as tortured as he was. … Feeling better than he has in years, he will appear [Dec. 1] at an AIDS benefit in New York, and he is booked for television interviews and a public service announcement for cable TV. On [Nov. 27], Mr. Simmons told the daughter he had with a high-school sweetheart that he was H.I.V. positive. He said he hopes that by telling his story, he will help prevent other men in his situation, especially blacks, from putting male or female partners in harm's way.

" ‘I'm sure there are those out there who are suffering, and if I help just one person, it's worth it,’ Simmons said. ‘You have to free yourself, and let it go. The secrecy and all that stuff brings on sickness.’ ”

The article details the shame and isolation Simmons felt about being attracted to men and the central role the rape had. “Years later as an adult, he tortured himself wondering--often while drunk or high on drugs--if he would have been straight if he had not been assaulted,” Orth writes. “He blamed himself and suffered from a diminished sense of self-worth and confusion over his sexual identity. ‘I think all my life it affected me,’ he said. ‘The acting out--the sex with the boys, the girls — the drinking.’ ”

The article also weaves in the difficulty of being black and gay--the “Down Low” concept where black men live a deeply closeted gay or bisexual life. It also delves into the familiar territory of how hard it is to be a gay professional athlete. "The N.F.L. has a reputation," Simmons said, "and it's not even a verbal thing--it's just known. You are gladiators; you are male; you kick butt."

An interesting aside comes from Butch Woolfolk, a former teammate of Simmons: "I played with four gay guys. Roy is the only one I didn't know about."

Simmons, who works as a supervisor in a Long Island drug halfway house, joins David Kopay and Esera Tuaolo as the only NFL players who have publicly declared they are gay.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Outsports

You must be a member of Outsports to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Outsports. You should read them.

Join Outsports

You must be a member of Outsports to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Outsports. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.