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Football player and antigay crusader Reggie White dies at 43

Football player and antigay crusader Reggie White dies at 43

While family, friends, and former teammates remembered football player Reggie White--who died Sunday--as a formidable man, many GLBT Americans were remembering White's long streak of antigay activism. A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and ordained minister who was known as the "Minister of Defense," White played 15 seasons with Philadelphia, Green Bay, and Carolina. He retired after the 2000 season as the NFL's career sacks leader with 198. The mark has since been passed by Bruce Smith. White also helped organize Christian Athletes United for Spiritual Empowerment. White worked tirelessly in the off-season with inner-city youths. But his image was tarnished by two incidents in 1998: He appeared in his Green Bay Packer uniform in a full-page antigay ad that ran in The Washington Times, and he gave a speech in which he denounced homosexuality and used ethnic stereotypes. Robert Harlan, the Packers' president and CEO, apologized at the time the ad ran for White's "inappropriate" use of the team's uniform, an action that violated NFL rules. Players cannot use official league property, such as a uniform, to push a personal political agenda. Because of the controversy, CBS Sports dropped him as a commentator, and White's wife charged that the network had bowed to pressure by the "sodomite community." Also that year, White appeared before the Wisconsin legislature and compared gay people to "liars, cheaters, and backstabbers." During an interview on ABC's news program 20/20, he claimed to "hate the sin/love the sinner." He said that homosexuality was a sin and that he was just "speaking out against things that are hurting our children and killing off our people. If people think that's a contradiction and that's hate, they need to take it up with God." The cause of White's death was not immediately known. White, however, had a respiratory ailment for several years that affected his sleep, according to Keith Johnson, a pastor serving as the family spokesman. The Mecklenburg County, N.C., medical examiner said Monday that an autopsy was scheduled and there could be preliminary information later in the day. White is survived by his wife and two children.

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