Sports

Raiders’ Carl Nassib Comes Out as Gay, Becoming the First Openly Gay Active NFL Player

Carl Nassib, wearing a football uniform, flexes his right bicep.
Carl Nassib warming up before a game against the Denver Broncos. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Carl Nassib, a defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, came out as gay via an Instagram post on Monday, making him the first openly gay active NFL player. “I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest,” Nassib said in a video message, adding that he hopes “one day, videos like this and the whole coming out process are just not necessary.” Nassib wrote that his friends, family, coaches, and teammates had all supported his decision to come out, and that he’d been met with “the utmost respect and acceptance.”

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Although Nassib is the first active NFL player to be openly gay, he’s not the first former NFL player to come out: running back Dave Kopay, who played for five different NFL teams between 1964 and 1972, came out as gay in 1975. Since then, however, only a handful of players have followed Kopay’s lead, and then only after retiring from professional football. In 2014, Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team when the St. Louis Rams scooped him up, but he was dropped from the team (for football-related reasons, not because of his sexuality), and never played in an NFL game.

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Nassib also announced that he is donating $100,000 to LGBTQ suicide prevention nonprofit the Trevor Project, writing, “it brings me incredible sadness to think that our LGBTQ youth are at such an elevated risk for suicide.” Here’s his Instagram post:

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Nassib’s football career began at Penn State in 2011—a tumultuous year for the team—joining the starting lineup in his senior year. The Cleveland Browns picked him up in the third round of the NFL draft in 2016, and he was still playing for them in the summer of 2018 during the filming of HBO’s Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Cleveland Browns. Nassib made quite an impression on the show, at one point telling a teammate that he believed in aliens because “the Canadian Prime Minister of Defense—who is the equivalent of our secretary of Defense, it’s just a different name—came out publicly and said that the United States is in contact with three different alien species.” He also gave a memorable, impromptu lesson in financial planning:

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Nassib was waived by the Browns after that 2018 training camp, played one season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and signed a three-year contract with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020. The team’s Instagram account commented “🖤🖤🖤” on Nassib’s post, then re-posted his statement from their Twitter and Instagram accounts, writing, “Proud of you, Carl🖤.” The NFL also offered their congratulations:

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The Raiders will kick off their 2021 season on Sept. 13, when they’ll face the Baltimore Ravens. Here’s Carl Nassib’s complete statement.

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What’s up, people, I’m Carl Nassib. I’m at my house here in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I just wanted 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’ve 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, you know, I’m going to do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that’s accepting and that’s compassionate, and I’m going to start by donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project. They’re an incredible organization. They’re the number one suicide prevention service for LGBTQ youth in America, and they’re truly doing incredible things. And I’m very excited to be a part of it, to help in any way that I can. And I’m really pumped to see what the future holds. That’s all I have for you guys. I hope you have a great day. Work hard.

Hey everyone, happy Pride Month. Right now I am sitting in a moment of gratitude and relief. Sadly, I have agonized over this moment for the last 15 years. Only recently, thanks to my family and friends, especially Connor, Cason, and Francis, did it seem possible for me to say publicly and proudly that I’m gay. I am also incredibly thankful for the NFL, my coaches, and my fellow players for their support. I would not have been able to do this without them. From the jump, I was greeted with the utmost respect and acceptance.

I truly love my life and cannot understand why I have been blessed with so much. I feel especially thankful to have had so much support when many who came before—and many even now—do not. I stand on the shoulders of giants, incredible people who paved the way for me to have this opportunity. I do not know all the history behind our courageous LGBTQ community, but I am eager to learn and to help continue the fight for equality and acceptance.

As I mentioned in my video message, I am partnering with The Trevor Project. I was immediately drawn to The Trevor Project when I learned about their mission to provide suicide prevention services to the LGBTQ community. Young LGBTQ kids are over 5x more likely than their straight friends to consider suicide. For someone like me, who has been so lucky and cherishes every day, it brings me incredible sadness to think that our LGBTQ youth are at such an elevated risk for suicide. I feel an immense responsibility to help in any way I can—and you can too. Studies have shown that all it takes is one accepting adult to decrease the risk of an LGBTQ kid attempting suicide by 40%. Whether you’re a friend, a parent, a coach, or a teammate—you can be that person.

Lastly, I hope everyone can understand that I am just one person. I am a lanky walk-on who is living his dream. I only have a small window to achieve greatness in my sport and I owe it to my team, coaches, and Raiders fans to be completely locked in and at my best for the upcoming season. I’m a private person, so I’d ask the media to give me some space as I navigate this exciting time in my life. Please don’t take it personally if I decline an interview or am unable to answer your questions. Thank you everyone for your support.

Happy Pride Month and Go Raiders.

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