Entertainment :: Culture

Out Ex-NFL Star Roy Simmons Dies

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Tuesday Feb 25, 2014
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Roy Simmons
Roy Simmons  (Source:AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

Former offensive lineman for the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins Roy Simmons, who made National Football League history in 1992 for coming out as gay and later in 1997 for coming out as HIV positive, died Thursday in his New York Home, the New York Daily News reports. He was 57.

Simmons, nicknamed "Sugar Bear" because of his smile and sweet personality, is the second former player in the NFL to come out as gay and the only NFL player to acknowledge he was HIV positive. Dave Kopay, a running back for the NFL was the first former NFL player to come out in 1975.

As OutSports reports, Simmons came out on the "Phil Donahue Show," then vanished from public view for 11 years. Unlike Kopay, the LGBT community did not celebrate his coming out, and he reportedly battled drug addiction, and, as the New York Daily News reports, Simmons, who was with the NFL from 1979 to 1983, was "tortured by his sexuality and struggled for years with substance abuse."

When his career with the NFL ended, he was a homeless prostitute in San Francisco and OutSports reports he once tried to kill himself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

The athlete published an autobiography in 2006, called "Out of Bounds. Coming Out of Sexual Abuse, Addiction and My Life of Lies in the NFL Closet," which detailed sex parties he attended, alcohol and hard drug use, dressing in drag and being a prostitute, charging $15 to $20.

OutSports posted an passage from the book:

"I guess I wasn’t really your average stoned-out crackhead," Simmons wrote. "In fairness to myself, most crackheads can’t say they ever played professional football. They can’t say they played in a Super Bowl, can’t say they were ever picked in an NFL draft or did battle with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive line in front of 75,000 screaming fans. They can’t say they’ve been on national television, under bright lights, playing tag with the big men, making huge salaries and working out endorsement deals with international sportswear companies. I had my up time. The average crackhead knows nothing but down. I had my up time, and I chose to do nothing with it. I let it slip away like I’d let of everything else in my life. My fiancée. My child. My family. Myself."

Simons played for the New York Giants from 1979 to 1982 and for the Washington Redskins in 1983, where he played in the Super Bowl.

"All the guys in the locker room loved him," Giants player Harry Carson, a teammate of Simons, told the Daily News. "He had a very gentle demeanor. He was all about having fun, laughing and smiling and doing his job."

He later added that some teammates suspected Simmons was gay, but it didn’t matter to them.

"We would have accepted him," Carson said. "Nothing would have happened to him."

The newspaper reports Simmons had affairs with women and had a daughter with one girlfriend, but also frequented gay bathhouses and was also with male hookers.

In 2006, he said he had to hide his sexuality while playing football.

"In the NFL there is nothing worse than being gay," Simmons said. "You can beat your wife, but you better not be gay."

Later in life, he became more open about his sexuality, and did drag while in San Francisco. But in 2005, he made an about face when he appeared on TV evangelist Pat Robertson’s program and said homosexuality was "against God’s will."

Friend James Hester told the Daily he found Simmons’ body in a chair in his rented room in the Bronx. He also said the athlete had been fighting pneumonia, but a spokeswoman for the Bronx’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner said the cause of death has not been determined.


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