Yesterday morning, June 21st, 2021, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib was just another NFL player. Come approximately 2 p.m. that same day, he became an enormous part of the league’s history.
In an Instagram video posted to his verified page, the 28-year-old Pennsylvania native revealed that he was gay, becoming the first openly-gay active NFL player. “I’m a pretty private person, so I hope you guys know that I’m really not doing this for attention,” Nassib explained. “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” He went on to share that he had already donated $100,000 to the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ youth in America, and that he hopes he can help “cultivate a culture” that’s more loving going forward.
That video, at the time this was written, already had 133,000 likes in three hours, with a flood of support coming from all over, including the Raiders social media account, which re-posted Nassib’s message with a simple caption: “Proud.”
Nassib becomes the first (known) gay NFL athlete to have played in a regular-season game. Michael Sam, a former St. Louis Rams draft pick in 2014, is technically the first pro-football athlete to announce he’s gay. However, Sam never actually made it onto the active roster with the Rams, and now plays in the Canadian Football League.
Put differently: Sam was a pioneer, but Nassib now becomes a courageous figurehead; an added and needed voice to a movement.
So good on you, Carl Nassib. Much respect for speaking your truth, because this certainly wasn’t easy. It’s unfortunate you didn’t feel comfortable enough to do it way sooner.
What is really evident from this announcement is a dire need for growth across major sports when it comes to compassion and acceptance. No athlete should live in fear of who they are. The fact this is becoming such a huge story proves there is a problem; Nassib merely highlighted it.
The next big hurdle Nassib faces is the feedback from his team. Ideally, every single player and coach will reach out and express their support for big number 94. That should be a no-brainer, yet this is an unprecedented moment. People will respond differently, but the hope is it’s all positive. And the Raiders, to their credit, have always been an organization that prides itself on welcoming any and all people inside their building. That doesn’t and shouldn’t change now.
Once again, congrats to Nassib for doing this. Saying this is huge is an understatement.
You’re truly a hero. The NFL and sports world alike are lucky to have someone as brave as you.
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*Top Photo: Matt Aguirre/Las Vegas Raiders