It was a big deal when a crew from the “NFL 360” show on the NFL Network came to Matea Valley High School in Aurora, Ill., to feature one of its players.
The subject was the impact of Carl Nassib coming out as gay in the NFL for the Las Vegas Raiders. Matea offensive lineman Jake Streder, who is gay, is one of five current or former LGBTQ athletes profiled.
For Streder, a senior, it was quite a journey from when he was outed by a classmate and thought about giving up the sport he loves. It was a subject he wrote powerfully about in a coming out story for Outsports. Having a film crew from a prestige show on the NFL Network meant a lot to him.
“When I returned to football my sophomore year after coming out it was because I knew that if I quit football it was just the beginning of things I would quit or hold myself back from because I was gay,” Streder told Outsports.
“To fast forward to my last football game my senior year and have it end with ‘NFL 360’ there to include me in a story celebrating the first openly gay football player in NFL history is still really unbelievable to me. They gave me this incredible gift to pay it forward and be a voice of support and encouragement to believe in yourself and not let being LGBTQ+ hold you back.”
In the 17-minute “NFL 360” segment “We Are All Human,” which first airs on the NFL Network Thursday after the 49ers-Titans game (about 12:30 a.m. EST Friday) and re-airs Dec. 28 at 10:30 p.m. EST, we see scenes of Streder’s last game as a Matea Mustang, interspersed with him speaking about being gay in football and what Nassib’s coming out meant to him.
Profiled along with Streder are former Patriots and Chiefs offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan, former college defensive back Avery Saffold, NFL Senior Diversity and Inclusion head Sam Rapoport and Casey Pick, Senior Fellow for Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project was highlighted by Nassib in his coming out video in June.
All five people have been out well before Nassib, but the segment effectively weaves in their personal stories before circling back to the impact they say Nassib is having in the sport.
Their experiences are universal, in ways good and bad, for many LGBTQ people — Pick talking about the pain from the initial rejection by her mom; O’Callaghan discussing suicidal thoughts before being rescued by a therapist; Rapoport’s touching recollection of coming out to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell by approaching him at a Super Bowl event holding her girlfriend’s hand and Goodell’s smile upon seeing it; Saffold discussing growing up Black and gay on the South Side of Chicago “where there are rampant levels of homophobia” and Streder on how he used to worry “about how bad my life might be after I came out. I was worried people wouldn’t like me any more and wouldn’t want me on the team.”
"It shifted our world."— NFL (@NFL) December 21, 2021
Carl Nassib has impacted and inspired a generation of athletes. pic.twitter.com/4iLkRVEHSV
O’Callaghan said he appreciated that Nassib no longer had to hide, because “when I was playing, it was consuming to me.” Rapoport stressed the impact Nassib has on young athletes.
“I think 11- or 12-year-old kids playing football prior to Carl Nassib coming out didn’t think there could be a gay football player,” Rapoport said. “After Carl came out, his jersey was the No. 1 selling jersey in the country. And that speaks to how the country reacted to him coming out.”
It’s terrific that these personal stories of LGBTQ people will be featured on the NFL’s network and is a testament to the power of Nassib’s coming out.
“NFL 360 With Melissa Stark” will air Thursday on the NFL Network after the 49ers at Titans game and re-air Dec. 28 at 10:30 p.m. EST. The “We Are All Human” segment credits: Senior Coordinating Producer: Dallas Hitchcock; Coordinating Producer/Director: Trent Cooper; Editor: John Orfanopoulos; Story Producer: Kate Espejo and Production Assistant: Lisa Simon