Lombardi: A champion of gay rights
Vince, whose brother Hal was gay, would've been proud of Jason Collins
Actually, Vincent Thomas Lombardi treated his Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins as anything but. No, winning wasn't everything, or the only thing. In Lombardi's playbook, winning placed a distant second to simple human decency.
In 1969, the year before his death, the only year he coached the Redskins, Lombardi worked with at least five gay men -- three players and two front-office executives, including David Slattery, who would come out in 1993. In his defining biography, "When Pride Still Mattered," author David Maraniss described the scene of Lombardi charging an assistant to work with one of the gay players, a struggling back named Ray McDonald. "And if I hear one of you people make reference to his manhood," Lombardi is quoted as saying, "you'll be out of here before your ass hits the ground."
This was 44 years before Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran, made history this week as the first active player among the four major American team sports to publicly reveal he is gay. This was 44 years before a basketball coach at Rutgers University was fired, in part, for degrading players with homophobic slurs, and before another coach was accused of using homophobic slurs at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Lombardi's Green Bay.
Who knew? A belated thanks Coach and much respect!