Gay NFL star dies after battle with pneumonia

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Roy Simmons, the second retired former NFL player to come out as gay and the first player ever to come out publicly as being HIV positive, has died at the age of 57.

He had been recently hospitalised with pneumonia and died last Thursday at his home in the Bronx, New York City.

His death was announced today.

Simmons was a competent player in the NFL who played for both the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants during his career. His final game was in 1984.

Once retired, he came out as gay in 1992 after appearing on The Phil Donahue Show. His autobiography was written by Damon DiMarco, and it looked into the difficult aspects of his life that included drug addiction and prostitution.

Simmons was the second retired NFL player to say he was gay. Dave Kopay, who retired in 1972, revealed he was gay in 1975.

In his autobiography, “Out of Bounds: Coming out of Sexual Abuse, Addiction, and My Life of Lies in the NFL Closet,” Simmons detailed his life of sex parties and drug addiction.

He would later say many of his problems stemmed from being raped at age 10 by a neighbour.

Simmons told the New York Times in 2003 he never considered revealing he was gay during the four seasons he played for the Giants and Redskins because of the likelihood of negative repercussions.

“The NFL has a reputation,” he said, “and it’s not even a verbal thing — it’s just known. You are gladiators; you are male; you kick butt.”

Michael Sam, a University of Missouri football player, came out in an ESPN interview on 9 February.

If selected by a team in the upcoming NFL draft he would make history as the sport’s first openly gay and serving professional player.