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Outsports Person of the Year: Carl Nassib

Nassib made history by becoming the first active NFL player to come out as gay.

Carl Nassib
Carl Nassib not only came out publicly in the NFL, but he ended his first game in Hollywood-story fashion.
Shelby Weldon

One thing Carl Nassib disliked about coming out was the “having to come out” part.

“What other fucking gay dude has to come out to his entire fucking business?” Nassib asked on a podcast with Las Vegas Raiders teammate Darren Waller after becoming the first active NFL player to come out as gay.

I empathize with Nassib because coming out is an awkward act that only LGBTQ people have to go through or truly understand. I think it’s one big reason more athletes don’t come out, especially those in high-profile sports.

He’s wrong, though, in assuming other “gay dudes” don’t have to come out in some sort of public way. I had to come out at every job I’ve had since graduating from Penn State. Every out LGBTQ person, regardless of their professions, at some point had to make the big announcement to family, friends, co-workers etc. They just don’t have to do it in a social media post seen by millions that becomes front-page news and the top story in sports, like Nassib did.

On June 21, Nassib posted a short video on Instagram where he told the world he was gay. “I’m a pretty private person so I hope you guys know that I’m not doing this for attention. I just think that representation and visibility are so important,” Nassib said.

The Raiders lineman knew he had to do something uncomfortable and unconventional to make a difference. He was no more gay on June 20 than he was June 21, but the very public act of coming out told the sports world conclusively there was an active NFL player who was openly gay.

The effects of that announcement are still being felt, but it’s clear that Nassib has already made a difference. He raised a ton of money for The Trevor Project, inspired other LGBTQ athletes, sold a lot of jerseys to fans of all teams (even mortal enemies of the Raiders) and demolished the narrative that an out NFL player would be shunned or driven from the league.

For those reasons, Nassib is Outsports Person of the Year.

It’s not as of the coming out went smoothly and stress-free for Nassib.

“The answer you would probably expect is, ‘Oh my God this weight was lifted off my shoulders.’ [But] It is a little more stressful, I will say,” Nassib told Waller on his Podcast. “Being the only out gay guy in the NFL is a little stressful. It’s gotten so much easier since camp. I remember the first three days of camp, I went out to practice, and just felt like I was suffocating, and the whole field was spinning.”

Then in October, Nassib took a personal day after Jon Gruden resigned as Raiders coach after racist and homophobic emails came to light. In addition, Nassib suffered a knee injury in a Thanksgiving Day win over the Dallas Cowboys, leaving early in the first half and missing the following two games.

Carl Nassib pursues Denver’s Melvin Gordon during the Raiders’ Week 16 win.
Carl Nassib pursues Denver’s Melvin Gordon during the Raiders’ Week 16 win.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

But there have been highs, such as Nassib forcing a fumble in a Week 1 Monday night game that led to a Raiders overtime win. In a more personal victory, Nassib has a boyfriend and can openly celebrate it. “Oh, I met an awesome guy,” Nassib told Waller. “He’s the best.”

Nassib has said little about being gay since coming out and that’s to the good. It really is no big deal and once you get past the fact of his announcement, there’s not a whole lot new to say about that aspect. He’s a pro football player who happens to be gay. And that speaks volumes.

Other honorees

Out Olympians in Tokyo: The Tokyo Summer Olympics saw a record 186 out LGBTQ athletes participate. There is such power in that number and it’s awesome that it grew by more than 50 after we first published.

The list became a thing among LGBTQ Olympians and we got messages from several athletes asking to be on the list. “Hey! I’m another openly queer athlete competing in the Olympics, if you want your numbers up,” Olympic gymnast Dominic Clarke wrote us.

There is also strength in numbers and the out Olympians proved that, both by participating and also in competition. Had they been their own country, Team LGBTQ would have finished seventh in the medal count.

Past Person of the Year Winners

2020: NFL coach Katie Sowers

2019: Soccer player Megan Rapinoe

2018: Figure skater Adam Rippon

2017: Former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan

2016: Duathlete and triathlete Chris Mosier

2015: High school basketball player Dalton Maldonado

2014: NFL draftee Michael Sam