Roy Simmons, who became only the second NFL professional player to come out as gay after they have left the sport in 1992, has died aged 57.
Simmons died at home on Thursday from complications related to pneumonia. He had been diagnosed with HIV in 1997.
Simons first came to the sporting public’s attention as a star football player at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and was drafted to play for the New York Giants in 1979 and played with them for three years before playing in the 1984 Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins suffered an overwhelming defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Raiders that year.
The Super Bowl was Simmons’ last game with the NRL and he played a final year in the rival United State Football League before quitting professional sports altogether.
But 7 years later in 1992 he appeared on Phil Donahue’s talkshow to reveal before friends and family that he was gay.
Simmons became a born-again Christian as part of a struggle with drugs and alcohol following the end of his sporting career but brother Gary Simmons told the New York Times that his brother had never disowned his own sexuality.
‘At no time has he ever shied away from being who he was,’ Gary Simmons said of his brother’s finding faith.
‘Those who knew Roy know where he stood. Roy was a gay black man who came out of the South.’
Simmons is survived by brothers Gary, Larry, Ricky and LaTawn, a sister, Katherine – and his daughter Kara Jackson and a grandson.
Dave Kopay, a running back who played nine seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, became the first pro-footballer to come out in the United States in 1975.