David Kopay

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David Marquete "Dave" Kopay, football running back who became the "first professional sport athlete to declare his homosexuality" when he came out as gay in 1975

This article written and copyright 2008 by Will Johnson, freelance biographer. This article is locked, you may comment on it by emailing me at wjhonson@aol.com


Dave Kopay was born 28 Jun 1942 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, the second of four children to Anton Kopay and his wife Marguerite Hahn. Dave's elder brother was named Tony. Anton and Marguerite were strict Roman Catholics. Anton born about 1904/5 to Croatian parents grew up in Cherry, Illinois, the family name was originally Kopaytich. Anton had a hard childhood, his step-father made him drop out of school after sixth grade to work in the mines, and then took all the money he made away from him. When he was 18, Anton went into the Marines. In later life, Anton was mostly estranged from his siblings. Anton's mother born Frances Potick, is buried at St Mary's Cemetery in Chicago. Marguerite Hahn was the second of eight children and was nine years younger than Anton when they married when Anton was age 32, so about 1936/8. Marguerite's father was German and her mother was Irish.

When David was in the fourth grade, the family moved to North Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California. He went to the University of Washington in 1961 where his older brother Tony was a member of the football team, and where he played as a running back. In 1963 he went with the Huskies to the Rose Bowl.
David Kopay was first drafted by the San Francisco '49ers in 1964, that year becoming their leading rusher. He was traded to the Detroit Lions in 1968, then to the Washington Redskins in 1969, the New Orleans Saints in 1971 and finally to the Green Bay Packers in 1973. "Kopay ... retiring in 1972 after a productive nine-year pro career. His private affairs were known to few." He came out as gay in 1975 in an interview with Washington Star reporter Lynn Rosellini, three years after the end of his nine-year professional football career.

In 1969 and 1970 he had a friendship and a one-night stand with his Redskins teammate, All-pro tight-end Jerry Smith who died of AIDS in 1986. When Kopay with writer Perry Deane Young wrote his autobiography, he used a pseudonym for Jerry Smith calling him "Bill Stiles". In 1971 he married briefly at the suggestion of a therapist, but the marriage lasted about a year.

When Dave Kopay came out, his older brother Tony was being considered for the head-coaching job at Oregon State. Tony insisted that he was passed over due to Dave's interview, although Tony did get an assistant coach position.
koppay.jpgIn a 2000 interview, reporter Dan Raley stated that : "Kopay often travels around the country, fulfilling speaking engagements." In an interview in 2002 Dave stated that he had been working for 20 years for Linoleum City, a company in Los Angeles that his uncle owned, as a buyer for movie studios. At the bottom of that interview is an email address for him, but my message to that address in 2008 bounced as "user unknown". In Sep 2007, he pledged a one million dollar gift to the University of Washington's glbtq center, calling this amount "about half of my estate."


  • The David Kopay Story: An extraordinary self-revelation, by David Kopay and Perry Deane Young; Arbor House, New York. 1977


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