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NFL brings LGBT-equality message to Los Angeles

Gay former NFL players Dave Kopay and Esera Tuaolo share their stories.

UCLA softball coach Kirk Walker (left) led a conversation about being gay in the NFL with legends Dave Kopay and Esera Tuaolo.
Cyd Zeigler

The National Football League hosted its second NFL Pride event on Wednesday with cocktails, appetizers and a conversation that was at times lively and tearful.

Openly gay former NFL players Dave Kopay and Esera Tuaolo shared their emotional experiences as gay athletes living in the closet before coming out publicly after retirement. The “fire-side chat” was moderated by Kirk Walker, the openly gay UCLA softball coach.

It’s the latest effort by the NFL to express support for LGBTQ employees at the league. The effort is led by Michael Castor and John Cora, who are openly gay employees of the league, and others at NFL Pride. Los Angeles, which houses the league’s TV network and dotcom operations, houses a large employee base for the NFL.

The conversation for the evening revolved around the experiences of both Tuaolo and Kopay as closeted gay men in the NFL. While Kopay said various teammates likely knew he was gay (or, in the case of should-be-Hall-Of-Famer Jerry Smith knew he was gay), Tuaolo said his teammates with the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers had no idea he was gay until he came out publicly.

Kudos to the NFL for making sure its LGBTQ employees know they are loved and supported.

NFL employees flank out gay men as they share their stories.
John Cora (left) and Michael Castor (right) with Esera Tuaolo.