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Pride Month: Giants remember Roy Simmons


During Pride Month, the Giants proudly support the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community. The organization strives to unite, heal, and help eliminate systemic inequity and inequality that many people must endure.

June is Pride Month in honor of the uprising at Manhattan's Stonewall Inn in June of 1969. It sparked a liberation movement that continues to this day. Just this week in the NFL, Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib, brother of former Giants quarterback Ryan Nassib, made history as the NFL's first active player to come out as gay. In addition to the Monday announcement on his Instagram account, Nassib pledged $100,000 to The Trevor Project, a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people under 25. The league announced it will match the donation.

"The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth today," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "Representation matters. We share his hope that someday soon statements like his will no longer be newsworthy as we march toward full equality for the LGBTQ+ community. We wish Carl the best of luck this coming season."

Giants running back Saquon Barkley also voiced support for his former college teammate. While Barkley earned Freshman All-American honors at Penn State in 2015, Nassib put together one of the best defensive seasons in program history as a unanimous All-American and winner of the Lombardi Award, which goes to the nation's top lineman or linebacker. Nassib was then selected by the Browns in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

In his video, Nassib said in part, "I actually hope one day that videos like this and the whole coming-out process are just not necessary, but until then I'm going to do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that's accepting and compassionate."

Nearly 30 years prior, Roy Simmons went through his own process at a much different time.

Originally an eighth-round draft choice by the Giants in 1979, the offensive lineman came out as gay during a talk show appearance in 1992. He played in all 16 games for the Giants from 1979-1981 before his final NFL appearance came with Washington in Super Bowl XVIII following the 1983 season.

Simmons was the second former NFL player to declare that he was gay. Dave Kopay, a running back who played nine seasons for five different teams from 1964-1972, was the first to do so in 1975. Simmons wrote about his journey in "Out of Bounds: Coming Out of Sexual Abuse, Addiction, and My Life of Lies in the NFL Closet."

His memoir recounted the devastating toll of being raped at an early age and how keeping his sexuality a secret steered him down a life-threatening path, which included alcohol and drug abuse as he went in and out of treatment. In February of 2014, Simmons died from pneumonia in his Bronx apartment at the age of 57.

At least one teammate believes Simmons would have had allies in his home locker room if he had come out during his playing days.

"If Roy had come out when he was a player, he would have been accepted," Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson said in Simmons' 2014 Los Angeles Times obituary. "He would have been fine. I can state that emphatically because I was a captain and we had strong leadership in the locker room."

View photos of former Giants offensive lineman Roy Simmons, who was originally selected in the eighth round of the 1979 NFL Draft.

The Giants have been a supporter of the You Can Play Project, which works to ensure the safety and inclusion for all who participate in sports, including LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches, and fans.

"We have an incredible platform to address serious issues in our society, not just in sports," Giants Chairman and Executive Vice President Steve Tisch said. "And there is no better use of our platform than to state unequivocally that everybody – including the LGBT community, which includes athletes and coaches, administrators and fans – deserves an opportunity to play and succeed based on ability and merit. You Can Play was founded on those principles in the memory of Brendan Burke, and we are grateful to share in and spread You Can Play's message."

You Can Play has made presentations to Giants players, coaches, and management on LGBTQ inclusion and creating a safe and inclusive locker room environment. The Giants Foundation has provided a grant to support You Can Play's work in fighting homophobia.

"My family has been involved in the ultimate team sport all of my life," Giants President and Chief Executive Officer John Mara said. "The definition of team is taking a group of people from all walks of life and bringing them together to work towards a common goal, whether that be on the playing field or in a corporate office. We are proud to support You Can Play and its mission to ensure safety and inclusion for all who participate in sports."

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