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Pride in Sports History: Legends Dave Kopay and Bill Tilden

Two great gay athletes broke barriers over 40 years ago.

The Advocate 45th Presented by Lexus - Red Carpet
Dave Kopay is one of the great gay sports legends in history.
Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Advocate

Pride In Sports History: Throughout Pride Month Cyd Zeigler will revisit some of the LGBTQ people who have blazed a trail in sports.

When Outsports ranked the top 100 LGBTQ sports moments in 2011, the coming out of David Kopay was No. 1. That hasn’t changed, as his courage in 1975 was the first monumental step for the visibility of LGBTQ athletes in the United States.

Even before Kopay, though, Bill Tilden was establishing himself as one of the greatest tennis champions of all time. He was nearly unstoppable during his career, winning over 93% of his matches. Yet he held a secret, and when that secret was revealed in the 1940s after two arrests, his life fell apart and he died alone and poor.

The struggles and triumphs of these two me, dealing with rampant homophobia in and out of sports 40 and 70 years ago, helped start a trickle that has led to massive change in the sports world today.