Green Bay Packers fans are bred to idolize Vince Lombardi. He was the architect and leader of the Golden Age of Packers football, his teams won five NFL championships including three straight and the first two Super Bowls, and his name graces the trophy that the league champion receives each year. Lombardi treated his players roughly in practices and during games, but absolutely respected each and every one of them as individuals.
That is why the fact that Lombardi respected and defended gay players and team employees should come as no surprise whatsoever to anyone who actually understands what he stood for and how he treated the individuals on his teams.
ESPN New York recently posted an article looking at Lombardi's legacy in the wake of NBA player Jason Collins' public announcement that he is gay, and it takes a deep, valuable look into the actions of the man that so many idolize, especially those in the Packers community. A few excerpts of this article really stand out as symbols of Lombardi's unwavering respect towards all his players, including this quote:
In his defining biography, "When Pride Still Mattered," author David Maraniss described the scene of Lombardi charging an assistant to work with one of the gay players, a struggling back named Ray McDonald. "And if I hear one of you people make reference to his manhood," Lombardi is quoted as saying, "you'll be out of here before your ass hits the ground."
Another moving quote is one given by Vince Lombardi, Jr. about his father and how he might react to the recent events:
"With [Jason Collins] coming out, I think my father would've felt, 'I hope I've created an atmosphere in the locker room where this would not be an issue at all. And if you do have an issue, the problem will be yours because my locker room will tolerate nothing but acceptance.' "
That is the attitude that I hope the teams I support would insist upon in their locker rooms and organizations: do your job to the best of your ability and respect your peers while doing so. This universal acceptance had no agenda behind it, nor was it self-serving. Lombardi wanted every person he was involved with to know that he or she was valuable in some way, regardless of any differences they might have, whether it was race, gender, or sexual orientation. This excerpt demonstrates that conviction:
Of course, the same was true of Lombardi's locker room in Green Bay, where he wouldn't let his Packers frequent any restaurant, bar or hotel that denied the same services to black players normally offered to white players. And when a black defensive end, Lionel Aldridge, revealed his plans to marry his white girlfriend, Lombardi blessed the union at a time when some around Green Bay, and around the league, were less than enthusiastic about it.
We all know that Lombardi is a man to be respected, to be admired, to be placed as an ideal among football coaches, but he is much more than that. In some ways, he pioneered tolerance in ways that few others did at the time, and would have been equally as respected in today's world as he was fifty years ago. We as Packers fans should feel honored to have him associated with our team and should take his lessons to heart.
Editor's note: Once again, we expect everyone to be respectful in the comments, so please conduct yourselves as you think the legendary coach would have wanted. There will be no tolerance for disrespectful language.
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