“Sadly, I have agonized over this moment for the last 15 years,” NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders’ player, Carl Nassib, posted on his Instagram. “Only until recently, thanks to my friends and family … did it seem possible for me to say publicly and proudly that I am gay.”
The June 22 announcement has made Nassib the first ever active NFL player to come out as LGBTQ. In the same social media post, Nassib pledged $100,000 to the LGBTQ-centered suicide hotline the Trevor Project.
While Nassib’s coming out has been largely met with enthusiasm, it didn’t take long for the mud-slinging to begin from the far right. Lebanese-American, conservative author and anti-Islamic activist Brigitte Gabriel broke a particular detail about Nassib on Twitter that she was all too happy to point out: “FUN FACT: The first openly gay active NFL player, Carl Nassib, is a registered Republican voter.”
The LGBTQ community is speculating via Twitter and other social media if it matters that Nassib is a Republican. So far, the overall consensus gives the impression that it remains a debatable point. Given the current Republican viewpoints on civil rights, voting rights and the legitimacy of the Biden/Harris election, for many, his politics could be his undoing.
Caitlin Jenner, a transgender woman who was previously an Olympic winning athlete, occasional actor and TV personality known as Bruce Jenner, is currently attempting a run for the California Governor’s office. Despite the previous popularity Jenner enjoyed with the mainstream community as an athlete, she has never been fully embraced by the LGBTQ community. Most point to her political affiliation and seemingly wealthy elitism as leaving her with an out-of-touch attitude for the average LGBTQ voter.
While Nassib isn’t vying for a reality show or a political office, internet chatter indicates — so far — his donation to the Trevor Project may have won him some positive support. He hasn’t issued any further comment since his original “coming out video,” although he did indicate his support for a Twitter post by LGBTQ activist, legislative lobbyist and Equality Florida Director Nadine Smith, who was replying to another post by Florida politician Chris Latvala regarding Jenner and Nassib.
“You voted to ban trans student athletes simply to appeal to ignorance and fear and score a few primary votes,” Smith wrote in her Tweet to Latvala. “You can’t hide behind these two people. [Carl Nassib] gave $100k to the [Trevor Project] to help undo the harm you inflicted.”
Nassib clicked like on the post, which prompted Smith to reply, “Glad to see Carl weigh in for himself.”
Since that response, Nassib has remained quiet.
The Las Vegas Raiders official Twitter page has re-posted Nassib’s coming out video with the message “Proud of you, Carl.”
The support of his friends, family, team and public are monumental, but not all gay football players have been met with this same enthusiasm. In 1975, Dave Kopay, who played for the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers and other NFL leagues, wrote an autobiography.
Published after his playing years were over, the book detailed Kopay’s life and struggles with his sexuality. “I was desperate. I was suffocating. It was horrible,” Kopay wrote about his struggles as a gay man while employed by the NFL. At the time of his contract with the NFL, being gay was considered a mental illness; one that was not protected by law against workplace discrimination.
When Michael Sam was drafted into the NFL in 2014, he celebrated the news with his boyfriend and even kissed him on public television. Taken aback by this display, safety for the Miami Dolphins, Don Jones, Tweeted, “horrible.” The Dolphins’ coach, Joe Philbin, issued a statement in which he condemned Jones’ harsh reaction.
Jones was put through sensitivity training, but, for reasons that may or not have been influenced by Sam’s sexual orientation, he did not make the final cut for the St. Louis Rams.
There’s no doubt the brave decisions made by his fellow NFL predecessors Kopay and Sam laid some early groundwork and set in motion the positive response in 2021 to Nassib’s Instagram post.
Homophobia, however, is not yet eradicated in sports. Regardless, these men all maintain that what they want most is to create an environment in which all LGBTQ-identified people are welcome to join in and enjoy football.
“I just think that representation and visibility are so important,” Nassib said in his video post. “I’m going to do my part to cultivate a culture that’s accepting, that’s compassionate.”
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