On Monday, Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders became the first active player in NFL history to openly acknowledge that he is gay. The 6-7, 275 lb. offensive tackle was at his Pennsylvania home when he shared the news on IG. “I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest,” said the Las Vegas Raider. “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.”
The National Football League has a long culture of toxic masculinity, bullying, and homophobia. As recently as December 2019, Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay was taunted by fans because of his last name, so Nassib’s announcement stands out all the more for its courage. “I’m a pretty private person, so I hope you guys know that I’m really not doing this for attention,” the Raiders OT continued. “I just think that representation and visibility are so important. I actually hope that like one day, videos like this and the whole coming-out process are just not necessary.”
Seven years ago, Michael Sam first broke ground as the first publicly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team. However, he was later cut by teams during preseason workouts and eventually landed in the CFL. While some critics questioned whether Sam was ever good enough to have been considered for the NFL, others wondered about the effect his revelation had on his perception as fit for the sport. Sam retired from pro football altogether after one year, though, and cited mental health reasons as the cause.
For Nassib’s part, he said he will donate $100,000 to The Trevor Project, an American nonprofit that is focused on preventing suicide among LGBTQ+ youth. The Trevor Project responded gratefully to Nassib’s pledge with a press statement, saying the donation would help “scale our life-saving crisis services to reach the more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth who seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S.”
League commish Roger Goodell issued a statement about Nassib. “The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth today,” it read. “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.”
Other members of the wider sports community also came out in support of Nassib. Personalities like football players JJ Watt and Saquon Barkley, sportscaster Taylor Rooks, and retired Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon let him know he had their backing, too.
If you would like to learn more about the Trevor Project and how you can help, visit https://www.thetrevorproject.org/.
THankfully his NFL family had nothing but positive words for him:
NFL Player Carl Nassib Comes Out As Gay
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Carl Nassib’s announcement on his IG page included this note which was particularly compelling, especially for those who may meet this news with “what’s the big deal/why does it matter?” pic.twitter.com/o1lQLoSqSa— Mike Golic Jr (@mikegolicjr) June 21, 2021
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Carl Nassib said he agonized about this moment for the last 15 years. He deserves all the love. Kindness today is important. Don’t let your negative tweets be the reason someone else decides not to live their truth. Let your positive ones be the reason they do.— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) June 21, 2021
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In 2013 I asked an NFL coordinator, on background, if he thought the league would ever accept an openly gay player. He said no, “because nobody wants to shower with a fa——.”— robertklemko (@RobertKlemko) June 21, 2021
Here’s to Carl Nassib’s courage, and that coach being out of a job. https://t.co/4KxbaM2nd0
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I hope the NFL is prepared to do right by Carl Nassib in ways they weren’t for everyone else. We’ll see.— Joel D. Anderson (@byjoelanderson) June 21, 2021
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My favorite part about the Carl Nassib news is that for me, he will forever be defined as the guy on Hard Knocks who gave his teammates financial literacy lessons before film session.— Pat Elliott (@Pat_Elliott_) June 21, 2021
Congrats to him, happy pride. pic.twitter.com/HapjoH691Y
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Really proud of Carl Nassib. The first active football player to ever do so. I played with several guys who never were comfortable enough to go public. They were great teammates, & obviously very talented.— Warren Moon (@WMoon1) June 22, 2021
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Good for you Carl Nassib!! Live your truth brother.— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) June 21, 2021
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It took me until I was in my late 60s to come out. Such is the power of the closet. And I know what it’s like to have the eyes of the world on you when you do finally speak your truth.— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) June 22, 2021
Bravo, Carl Nassib. You have tackled a great deal today.
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#Raiders coach Jon Gruden, in response to DE Carl Nassib coming out as gay: “I learned a long time ago what makes a man different is what makes him great.”— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) June 21, 2021