Former Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib believes the NFL and other sports leagues are “making strides in a positive direction” in LGBTQ+ inclusivity.
NFL defensive end Carl Nassib was drafted into the league back in 2016, but it wasn’t until 2021 that he felt comfortable about coming out as the first active gay NFL player in league history.
When he came out, Nassib stated that he’s a private person, explaining his reason for coming out came down to one thing: it was “for the kids.”
Nassib recently sat down with Good Morning America’s Michael Strahan, a legendary defensive end himself, to reflect on his journey since coming out publicly.
Nassib said that the NFL community and the Las Vegas Raiders locker room has been nothing but supportive, and Nassib believes that the NFL and society at large is “making strides in a positive direction” in regards to LGBTQ+ inclusivity and justice.
“I really wasn’t scared about [experiencing backlash in the Raiders locker room] at all. I had a great relationship with my teammates, and I was just met with the most incredible support from my teammates. [The NFL] was so supportive. I’m just incredibly thankful for all the support they’ve given and continuing to do.”
While Nassib was met with support in the NFL, there’s a reason he is the first player to come out as gay as an active NFL player. Nassib is by no means the first gay man to play in the NFL: David Kopay, a former NFL running back, became the first major professional team-sport athlete to come out as gay back in 1975. Since Kopay, several former NFL players have come out over the years upon reaching retirement.
Three years before Nassib was drafted, back when he was playing for the Penn State Nittany Lions, the NFL came under fire because “players said they were asked during the Scouting Combine if they liked girls.” All of this illustrates that the NFL and football in general has not felt welcoming to many male athletes, who fear backlash for their sexual orientation. The firing of talented athletes after they have come out as gay is well-documented in American professional sports.
Carl Nassib believes the NFL and society at large is “making strides” in LGBTQ+ inclusivity
Nassib highlights the positive reception he received in the NFL, but in their conversation, he and Strahan acknowledge that today remains a fraught time for LGBTQ+ youth as states pass bills targeting the community. Florida passed a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prevents the discussion of non-heteronormative sexuality and identity in Florida school curricula, and there are various state bills seeking to regulate how trans kids participate in sports.
Here is what Nassib had to say to the LGBTQ+ kids who feel threatened by these kinds of legislative efforts:
“They have massive support from a community of people who will love them no matter what, and we are making strides in a positive direction. It won’t be a perfect road, and we just have to continue the course and make sure that we do it from a place of love and not from a place of animosity.”
The 29-year-old defensive end has spent his summer training while in free agency, stating that he still has “a lot in the tank” as he hopes to sign with another NFL team.
Nassib partnered with The Trevor Project this June, donating another $100,000 to the organization while also matching donations during Pride Month. Per GMA, Nassib is also rolling out a new app, Rayze, which allows users to easily donate to causes that matter to them.