'Out of Bounds': Gay, Closeted and In the NFL
ED GORDON, host:
Earlier in the program, we talked about the upcoming Super Bowl to be played here on Sunday and all of the excitement that surrounds it. But amidst the hoopla, all is not rosy with the National Football League. Questions of discrimination, intolerance, and lack of opportunity for minorities in the higher ranks have plagued the NFL for years. Former offensive lineman Roy Simmons played pro ball for the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins.
He is one of only three NFL players to publicly admit to being gay; all did so after their retirement. Simmons has written a memoir titled Out of Bounds, which recounts his football fame and self-proclaimed reckless lifestyle that led to drugs, prostitution, and thoughts of suicide. Simmons told me how he mustered the courage to come out of the closet.
Mr. ROY SIMMONS (Former Offensive Lineman, New York Giants & Washington Redskins): The actual mustering came from just years of lies and deceitfulness. I'm a survivor. I was raped, when I was 10 years old by the postman. And I think from that I had a very traumatic experience. And from then, my life has been a lot of lies and deceitful and hiding and being afraid, etc. And here I am an athlete, and here I carry this shame and guilt also with me in being gay in the NFL.
GORDON: When you look back on your life now, drug addiction, alcoholism, infidelity, you found yourself penniless; you were selling sex for drugs; all of the things that, in fact, almost are stereotypical of someone hitting rock bottom, you checked each box. You in fact contemplated suicide?
Mr. SIMMONS: Correct. It was at a point and time in my life where it just seemed like everything going downhill and the rape being a part of it, I just felt like, really, what purpose am I serving here when everything seems to be basically negative? But I must say, you're given that moment of clarity. And at that Golden Gate Bridge, when I had a chance to have that moment of clarity, I chose to live.
GORDON: Let me ask you this. Including yourself, there are only three former NFL players who have publicly acknowledged that they are homosexual. How many others did you know of that remained undercover?
Mr. SIMMONS: I'm like this, your purpose there, you know, actually is to play ball. Of course you're going to look; you're going to see bodies; you're going to see guys on other teams that you're probably going to admire or either have a question about. So my thing was basically that at least one and maybe two guys at the most that's on a team, you know.
GORDON: So, Roy, you never had a relationship with another player?
Mr. SIMMONS: It was a brief. The relationship was a brief encounter with one of my teammates. And the thing about it is that, on a daily basis we saw each other, but it was never really spoken about.
GORDON: Do you believe that you will be shunned by many?
Mr. SIMMONS: No...
GORDON: It's a very closed society, as you know.
Mr. SIMMONS: And it really is. And like I said, I'm not here to harm them or out them, but it's just life. I'm still a part of that organization. It's in there. I did my time. I did my dues, paid my dues, whatever you want to call it, and I don't think my sexuality, I mean, I am who I am, and I still take my hat off to the NFL regardless.
GORDON: Any regrets now?
Mr. SIMMONS: Whoo, yeah, regrets. Of course I have regrets. And I say to turn all those regrets around by, I think you can show whatever by your actions, you know, my relationship with my daughter; and I think today I'm focusing on my health. You have the drugs, you have the alcohol, cocaine, I did it all. But my thing now is just actually living a positive life.
GORDON: Well, we wish you all the luck, Roy Simmons. It takes a brave man to come out, particularly in the field that you were in. The book is called 'Out of Bounds: My Fast Times, Wild Nights and Outlaw Life In and Out of the NFL Closet.' Roy, thanks for joining us.
Mr. SIMMONS: And thank you for having me here.
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