They said an openly gay player wouldn’t be accepted in the NFL. They said he would lose the respect of his teammates and be ostracized in the locker room. Coming out would cost him endorsements, and worst of all, maybe even his job.
They were wrong.
Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player ever Monday to publicly come out as gay. And he thanked his teammates for making it happen.
That’s what I would like focus on.
“I am also incredibly thankful for the NFL, my coaches and fellow player for their support,” Nassib wrote in a follow-up post. “I would not have been able to do this without them. From the jump, I was greeted with the utmost respect and acceptance.”
I graduated high school in 2011, and even when I was growing up, I doubted whether there was anybody in the NFL like me.
I remember Troy Aikman’s 20-year grudge against Skip Bayless for spreading unsubstantiated gay rumors about him. I recall Jeff Garcia publicly declaring his heterosexuality to stop homophobic taunts. I was shaking with rage when Chris Culliver declared he wouldn’t accept an openly gay teammate.
But the next year, I also remember Culliver saying he would welcome Michael Sam into the NFL. Jason Collins came out around that time, too, and it seemed like we were at a breaking point.
Then there was nothing for seven years, even as the NFL shield increasingly began to embrace the rainbow. This year, multiple NFL stars, including Rob Gronkowski and DeAndre Hopkins, starred in a video for National Coming Out Day — along with multiple openly gay ex-pros.
Since I started writing for Outsports in January 2020, there has never been a doubt in my mind that an openly gay active NFL player would be widely embraced.
When Nassib made his announcement Monday afternoon, that’s exactly what happened. Here is a sampling of the reaction from around the NFL world, beginning with Raiders owner Mark Davis and his head coach, Jon Gruden:
“These are personal decisions. It’s 2021, and he’s a Raider,” Davis told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “If he’s happy, I’m happy. It takes courage. I thought we got to the point where this wasn’t [a story]. It doesn’t change my opinion of him as a man or as a Raider.”
#Raiders coach Jon Gruden, in response to DE Carl Nassib coming out as gay: “I learned a long time ago what makes a man different is what makes him great.”— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) June 21, 2021
“The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth today,” the commissioner told Outsports in a statement. “Representation matters. We share his hope that someday soon statements like his will no longer be newsworthy as we march toward full equality for the LGBTQ+ community. We wish Carl the best of luck this coming season.”
Good for you Carl.— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) June 22, 2021
Glad you feel comfortable enough to share and hopefully someday these types of announcements will no longer be considered breaking news. https://t.co/eevr8cgRay
“I have often said I love my teammates,” he told reporters. “I mean it. We always say we are a family in that Raider locker room, and we mean that. I want to win a championship here with Carl and the rest of our teammates.”
DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFLPA
Our union supports Carl and his work with the Trevor Project is proof that he - like our membership - is about making his community and this world a better place not for themselves, but for others. https://t.co/jJImZlEkqc— DeMaurice Smith (@demauricesmith) June 22, 2021
Much love to a member of our NFL family. https://t.co/yMgAo9EPOl— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) June 22, 2021
Much love and respect to Carl Nassib. ✊ https://t.co/WW2u3uNRjz— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) June 22, 2021
Really proud of Carl Nassib. The first active football player to ever do so. I played with several guys who never were comfortable enough to go public. They were great teammates, & obviously very talented.— Warren Moon (@WMoon1) June 22, 2021
As long as they helped us win and were great teammates- their sexual preference was never a issue..— Warren Moon (@WMoon1) June 22, 2021
We live in a different time now where diversity is much more accepted. Cheers Carl, and I hope this lets other athletes know, its OK to say who you are...
Carl Nassib thank you for owning your truth and especially your donation to the @TrevorProject. LBGTQ people are more likely to commit suicide than heterosexuals. I hope and pray people will take note to this. Thank you again Carl and look forward to seeing you play on the field.— Michael Sam (@MichaelSam52) June 22, 2021
David Kopay, the first NFL player to ever come out
“Oh shit!,” he told our Jim Buzinski. “That’s really big news. It’s fabulous. This is incredible.”
Congrats to Carl Nassib on coming out that’s a big step, I think that most players are concerned if you can play or not.— Shawne Merriman (@shawnemerriman) June 21, 2021
Raiders lineman Darius Stills
Congratulations to Carl Nassib! Ball out this season brother!— R.K. Russell (@RKRelentless) June 21, 2021
This is great news https://t.co/C8XpuGHOuQ— Chris Kluwe, Irredeemable Pudgy Nobody (@ChrisWarcraft) June 21, 2021
We stand with and support you, Carl! https://t.co/0KPqhntiEk— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) June 22, 2021
Good for you Carl Nassib!! Live your truth brother.— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) June 21, 2021
Nassib also received support from other prominent sports figures, including Billie Jean King and Collin Martin, the only active openly gay pro soccer player in the U.S.
The ability to live an authentic life is so important.— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) June 21, 2021
Sending love and support to Carl Nassib of the @Raiders, who has bravely made history as the 1st active NFL player to come out. He has also donated $100K to @TrevorProject.
Representation and visibility matter! ️ https://t.co/E6hSOeIioW
This post will be updated as more reactions come in. Please, send in any that we have missed!