The world of professional athletics just became a bit more diverse and inclusive. In a boost for LGBTQ representation during Pride Month celebrations, professional football player Carl Nassib has announced he is gay. The defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders becomes the first-ever out athlete actively playing in the NFL.
Bleacher Report’s Timothy Rapp reported on Nassib’s Instagram announcement; in addition to coming out, Nassib pledged $100,000 to the nonprofit LGBTQ youth support organization, The Trevor Project, which provides “crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning young people under 25.”
In a caption accompanying the video, Nassib wrote: “I just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now. But I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest. I really have the best life. I got the best family, friends and job a guy could ask for. I’m a pretty private person, so I hope you guys know that I’m really not doing this for attention. I just think that representation and visibility are so important. I actually hope that, one day, videos like this and the whole coming-out process are just not necessary. But until then, I will do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that’s accepting, that’s compassionate, and I’m gonna start by donating $100,000 to The Trevor Project.”
Nassib’s coming-out announcement was met with a chorus of support throughout the football community.
The official social media accounts of the NFL and the Las Vegas Raiders both linked to his post and showed their support of his announcement. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell elaborated similar sentiments, saying, “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.”
Players ranging from the Arizona Cardinals’ JJ Watt to the New England Patriots’ Julian Edelman also expressed their admiration for Nassib’s announcement and its significance to the LGBTQ community.
— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) June 21, 2021
Good for you Carl.
Glad you feel comfortable enough to share and hopefully someday these types of announcements will no longer be considered breaking news. https://t.co/eevr8cgRay
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) June 22, 2021
While Nassib will be known as the first gay athlete actively playing on an NFL team, another out athlete came close recently: Michael Sam. According to Rapp, Sam “came out publicly in 2014 after his college football career and before he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round, making him the first out player to be drafted by an NFL team. While he played for the Rams that preseason and later had a stint on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, he never played a regular-season game before retiring in 2015.”
Nassib joins a small but growing list of openly LGBTQ athletes playing in a major American sport. NBA star Jason Collins made history in 2014 when he became the first out athlete to play professional basketball as a member of the New Jersey Nets. A year earlier, the LA Galaxy’s Robbie Rogers became the first-ever openly gay athlete to play in any major professional sports leagues in the United States as part of the Major League Soccer franchise. Baseball players Glenn Burke and Billy Bean are often credited as the first-ever LGBTQ professional athletes in America. Both played for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 70s and 80s, but neither officially came out until after retiring.