Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib made NFL history yesterday when he announced via social media that he's a gay man. In the process, the 28-year-old became the first active NFL player to publicly come out as gay.
Nassib posted the announcement on his Instagram profile along with a short video and statement.
Why Carl Nassib coming out matters
For many NFL fans around the world, yesterday’s announcement may not seem like a big deal, but the ripple effect it will create is not up for debate.
The National Football League is the home of the toughest, strongest, fastest male athletes on the planet. Millions of fans worldwide (especially young boys) look up to these demigods as their heroes and aspire to be just like them one day.
The fact that one of the myriad role models in the league is openly gay is a game-changer.
The NFL has been around since 1920 and it's taken over 100 years for one of its players to finally feel brave enough to come out to the world.
While most societies have accepted the LGBTQIA community with open arms, the world of professional sports has been slow on the uptake, especially in male-dominated sports leagues like the NFL.
Carl Nassib said in his IG post that he had been agonizing over this moment for 15 long years. The Raiders defensive end's announcement is hopefully the first step in setting an example and helping people feel confident and safe regardless of sexual orientation.
The knock-on effect of Carl Nassib’s announcement
Now that an active NFL player has come out, hopefully it will help the millions of kids around the world who are struggling with their sexuality or gender issues. As Carl Nassib wrote in his statement, young LGBTQIA kids are five times more likely than their straight friends to commit suicide.
Nassib coming out is bigger than the NFL; it underlines hope and gives young people another role model to look up to, safe in the knowledge that there is support and representation for all groups in and out of the league.
Reaction from the NFL
After Carl Nassib released his statement, the NFL community reacted with a flood of supportive messages for the Las Vegas Raiders defensive end. NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell released a statement praising Nassib.
"The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth today," Goodell said, per the statement. "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."
Gay athletes in US pro sports
Carl Nassib differs from other professional male athletes who have come out in the past, owing to the fact that he is still an active NFL player. He signed a three-year $25 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders in March 2020.
Many fans will remember Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, who came out before the 2014 NFL Draft. Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams but never played an NFL game during his brief professional career.
NBA player Jason Collins came out after the 2012/13 NBA season but only played briefly after his announcement.
The first openly gay male athlete in the United States was Robbie Rogers, who played for Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS in 2013.