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David Kopay, alum and gay athlete, donates $1 million to UW’s Q Center


David Kopay, a University of Washington alumnus who was the first American professional team athlete to come out as gay, has pledged $1 million to the UW’s Q Center, whose mission is to create an inclusive and celebratory environment for people of all sexual orientations.

“The greatest gift we can give one another is the vision and beauty of life,” Kopay says. “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.”

“David Kopay’s generous gift to the Q Center is a both an act of forgiveness and a clear directive to the UW regarding the health and well-being of its glbttsqqi students, faculty, and staff ,” says 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 attended the UW from 1961 to 1964; he completed his degree in history in 1966. Kopay became an All-American running back in his senior year, leading the 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.

In 1975, he gave an interview with the Washington Star in which he acknowledged that he was gay. Kopay was considered a top contender for coaching positions, but he believes he was snubbed because of his sexual orientation.

Since retiring from football and the National Football League, Kopay went to work for his uncle’s business, Linoleum City, a leading supplier of flooring to the motion picture and television industries in Hollywood. He has championed rights for gays in front of Congress in 1977, the American Bar Association in 1979, and the American Association of Pediatrics in 1980. His biography, The David Kopay Story, contains his reflections on being the first openly gay formerly professional American team athlete.

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 wanted to ensure that future students, whose families similarly might have turned their back on them, had the appropriate resources for continuing their education. He plans to move back to Seattle to assist the UW and the Seattle community in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender initiatives.

The UW’s Q Center was established in 2004. It 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. It is a unit in the Office of Student Life and receives funding through students’ Services and Activities Fee, the Office of Student Life, the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity, and from gifts. More information is at


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