This past Monday Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. The Announcement was made via Instagram with a video where the 28 year old Defensive End stated “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.” He makes it very clear that his coming out isn’t for attention, it is for visibility and representation so that one day videos like this to come out become unnecessary. Sadly they are because in 20 states it is still legal to hire and fire an employee due to their sexual preference. Right now, Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 and LGBTQ youth are more likely to contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth. Carl’s actions show that he obviously wants to make a difference because he put his money where his mouth is by donating $100,000 for the Trevor Project , the number 1 suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ youth in America.
Support for Nassib since his announcement has been spotty at best. Stars like JJ Watt and Saquon Barkley both praised him on social media as well as the Raiders Organization but most of the big name stars have so far kept their name out this. I’m talking Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, and Russell Wilson who have all been silent. I am aware that they don’t have to do or say anything and the media’s track record with presenting quotes at face value have suspect at best but it’s still not a good look. Since the Instagram post Nassib’s jersey has shot to the number one sold spot in America. The people have chose to show their solidity with their pocketbook, the American way.
The current public reaction differs from the way this was handled in the past.
Almost 20 years ago retired Vikings Offensive Lineman Esera Tuaolo made the announcement on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that he in fact was gay after he had played over 5 season in the NFL. The response was much different than Monday’s, because at this time Homosexuality in common culture was much more taboo. Tuaolo was asked if the league was ready for an openly gay superstar player and he replied at the moment “no, the NFL currently is not ready”. Enter Michael Sam, the Missouri all SEC edge rusher who came out right before the NFL draft and famously kissed his boyfriend on live TV when he was drafted in the 7th round by the then St. Louis Rams in 2015. He was labeled a distraction by the media and was cut before the season began, the following year he was not on a roster and out of the league forever.
So what makes this different?
First off Nassib can flat out play, he isn’t an every down player but when he is on the field he makes a difference. Last season he combined for a total of 28 solo tackles, 11 assists, 2.5 sacks, and an interception not to mention a lot of his position’s job is stuff that doesn’t end up on the stat sheet.
Also, the times are changing before our eyes. Homosexuality and gender are possibly the most fluid they have been in modern history, especially in America. There are now openly LGBTQ politicians, celebrities, and members of our own community who break down barriers by continuing to push a conversation of what is normal and what is right?
To me being an ally isn’t having a kooky group of gay friends you go to brunch with. Being an ally is having a space of love, respect, and acceptance for anyone’s sexual preference or gender identity in your personal circle of friends, colleagues, or family. It isn’t our job to judge one another’s lifestyle and we should treat others how we would want to be treated. As the brother to a member of the LGBTQ community I’m proud that my he chose to live his truth and be his true self. I don’t care how he chooses to live his life, I just want to make sure he knows he is loved and supported.
That’s why I applaud Nassib for taking the brave first step that so many people are afraid to make because they are afraid society won’t accept them. His public announcement and philanthropy should model how future players do the same until we get to the point where this isn’t a big deal anymore.