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Washington had 3 gay players in its 1969 NFL training camp

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One NFL player suggested the team may have had as many as ‘a dozen’ gay players on its roster at one point.

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Dave Kopay, shown with Washington in 1969, came out as gay in 1975
Dave Kopay in Washington in 1969
NFL Films

Each week we’ll be taking a look at the NFL teams involved in the Sunday Night Football game and track their record — team, coaches and players — on LGBT issues.

This week, the 2-0 Oakland Raiders travel to Washington, D.C., to play 1-1 Washington. Here are the LGBT angles for the game this week.

  1. Dave Kopay is the most important person in LGBT sports history. His coming out as gay in 1975 after nine years in the NFL made him the first professional athlete — male or female — to come out publicly.
  2. Kopay’s 1977 book, “The David Kopay Story: An Extraordinary Self-Revelation,” made the New York Times bestseller list and has been an inspiration to LGBT people since. I once saw Billie Jean King rush over and hug Kopay at a screening, saying how much his story inspired her when she came out.
  3. Kopay played for Washington in 1969 and 1970. The 1969 training camp featured three gay players — Kopay, tight end Jerry Smith and running back Ray McDonald. McDonald was cut in the training camp prior to the start of the season.
  4. In an NFL Films documentary, “Hall of Fame wideout Charley Taylor even suggests Washington had a reputation as a haven for gay players, and that there might have been as many as a dozen on the roster at one point.” Kopay told me that he and Smith were the only two gay players he knew of during his two years in Washington, though he suspects there might have been others.
  5. Smith caught 421 passes and had 60 touchdowns in his career, numbers unheard of for a tight end at the time. He is in the team’s Ring of Honor, and his absence from the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a disgrace.
  6. Smith and McDonald both died of complications of AIDS. Kopay turned 75 in June and lives in Los Angeles. I am great friends with him and watching NFL games at his house is an awesome experience.
  7. At the same time as Kopay and Smith were with Washington, the team had two prominent front-office people who were gay — General Manager David Slattery and Publicist Joe Blair.

Outsports prediction for the game: Oakland 34, Washington 20. Oakland is a legit Super Bowl contender, especially on offense with QB Derek Carr, RB Marshawn Lynch and WR Amari Cooper. Oakland’s defense is a bit suspect, but Washington isn’t talented enough to stay with the Raiders.