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Vince Lombardi was accepting of gay players

By John Breech | CBSSports.com

According to those who knew him, ex-Packers and Redskins coach Vince Lombardi didn't discriminate. (USATSI)

Vince Lombardi didn't become one of the best coaches in NFL history by discriminating against his players. By all accounts, Lombardi didn't care if his players were black, white, gay or straight, he only cared about one thing and that's whether they could play football.

"My father was way ahead of his time," Lombardi's daughter Susan told ESPN New York. "He was discriminated against as a dark-skinned Italian-American when he was younger, when he felt he was passed up for coaching jobs he deserved. He felt the pain of discrimination and so he raised his family to accept everybody, no matter what color they were or whatever their sexual orientation was."

Former Redskins running back Dave Kopay, who came out in 1975 and was the first former NFL player to announce he was gay, found Lombardi to be accepting during their one season together in 1969,

"Vince Lombardi had so much humanity, I was just lucky to be around him," Kopay said.

Although Kopay didn't come out until 1975, he believes that Lombardi knew he was gay.

Susan believes that if her father were alive, he'd have been incredibly supportive of NBA player Jason Collins' decision to come out.

"Without a doubt, my father would've embraced him and would've been very proud of him for coming out," Susan said.

It's not just Lombardi's daughter who saw how accepting Lombardi was of gays, as Richard Nicholls saw it, too. Nicholls was the partner of Vince's gay brother, Harold Lombardi, for 41 years. Harold passed away in 2011.

"Through [Harold] and in what I'd read and seen, Vin was always fair in how he treated everybody," Nicholls said. "I just thought he appeared to be a great man who accepted people at face value for what they were and didn't judge anybody. He just wanted you to do the job."

Lombardi's son, Vince Lombardi Jr., echoed Nicholls' sentiment.

"I take a great deal of pride in the fact that, at a time when this was still cutting-edge stuff, my father was able to see through all of that and treated people as they deserved to be treated," the younger Lombardi said. "He saw everyone as equals."

Keep your eye on everything NFL by following John Breech on Twitter @JohnBreech.

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