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Kopay gives $1 million to UW Q Center endowment
Kopay gives $1 million to UW Q Center endowment
First pro-athlete to come out as Gay to be honored during Husky game on Saturday, Sept. 8

by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

David Kopay, a University of Washington alumnus and the first American professional team athlete to come out as Gay, will be honored during a ceremony at Husky Stadium on the UW campus on Saturday, September 8. At the end of the third quarter during the Husky's game against Boise State, Kopay, now 65 years-old, will be named a "Husky Legend" and will have his list of accomplishments read aloud.

Kopay attended the UW from 1961 to 1964 where he completed a degree in history in 1966. During his senior year, he became an All-American running back and led his team to the 1964 Rose Bowl as co-captain. He played professional football with the San Francisco 49ers from 1964 to 1967, the Detroit Lions in 1968, the Washington Redskins in 1969-70, the New Orleans Saints in 1971 and the Green Bay Packers in 1972.

Earlier this week, the UW announced Kopay will donate $1 million to set up an endowment fund in his name for the UW's Q Center. Established in 2004, the Q Center provides professional support, advocacy and mentoring for students, faculty and staff with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender concerns. It consults with academic departments in providing a safe and secure environment for such students, and coordinates numerous programs, social organizations and educational initiatives.

"The greatest gift we can give one another is the vision and beauty of life," said Kopay, in a written statement. "I continually hear from people all over the world that my act of coming out, especially when I did in 1975, has empowered them in their search for self and to see their vision. Hopefully, my million dollar pledge will influence others to support the University and the Q Center continue to help others to do just that."

Kopay became interested in the Q Center when he read about a Gay UW student who had been living in a homeless shelter while attending school. He wants to ensure that future students, whose families similarly might have turned their backs on them, have the appropriate resources for continuing their education.

"David Kopay's generous gift to the Q Center is both an act of forgiveness and a clear directive to the UW regarding the health and well-being of its [LGBT] students, faculty, and staff," said Jennifer Self, director of the Q Center. "When David was a student-athlete at the UW in the early 60's, as a Gay man, he had nowhere to go for support, affirmation, resources, or safety. That is no longer the case, and thanks in part to him, the Q Center will be here in perpetuity."

Kopay came out as being Gay during an interview with the Washington Star in 1975. He believes the resulting controversy cost him potential coaching or scouting positions. The Seahawks and Huskies turned him away. He moved to Los Angeles to work at a Santa Monica flooring store, Linoleum City, owned by relatives. He has worked for the business for the last three decades but is contemplating retirement in December. Kopay plans to move back to Seattle to assist the UW and the Seattle community in LGBT initiatives.

Since leaving the football field, Kopay has continued to champion for the rights of LGBT people. He spoke to Congress in 1977, the American Bar Association in 1979, and the American Association of Pediatrics in 1980. He also published his biography, The David Kopay Story, in which he writes about his life and reflects on his career in the NFL. In his book, he wrote about relationships with a UW fraternity brother, who would die in the Vietnam War, and an NFL teammate (later identified as All-Pro wide receiver Jerry Smith, who also is deceased).

Kopay says he never made more than $29,000 a season during his nine-year NFL career and played without signing bonuses. However, his career in football tortured his body. Within the last five years, Kopay has had replacement surgery on each hip, a knee and a shoulder. He told the Seattle Times this week, that the $1 million gift is "about half my estate."

Kopay was cast in the yet-to-be-released film, Tru Loved. He spent his summer playing himself in a story about a Gay football player. He hopes one day a film might be made to tell his story, the first pro-athlete to out himself.

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