Update: Carl Nassib forced the game-winning fumble against the Ravens in his first game after coming out. A Hollywood ending.
Charles Barkley is in Carl Nassib’s corner. On ESPN2’s Monday Night Football broadcast of the Raiders’ season-opener against the Ravens, the NBA Hall of Famer was rocking Nassib’s No. 94, sending a strong message of support towards the first out gay player to ever play in an NFL game.
But if you know about Barkley’s history of advocacy for LGBTQ people in sports, then his statement isn’t a surprise. Barkley has consistently stood on the right side of LGBTQ issues, from same-sex marriage to odious transgender “bathroom bills.”
Way back in 2011, Barkley said he had played with gay teammates in the NBA, and their sexuality was never an issue.
“Every player has played with gay guys,” Barkley told the Washington Post. “It bothers me when I hear these reporters and jocks get on TV and say, ‘Oh, no guy can come out in a team sport. These guys would go crazy.’ First of all, quit telling me what I think. I’d rather have a gay guy who can play than a straight guy who can’t play.”
Nassib’s teammates agree with Barkley. The 27-year-old defensive lineman was publicly embraced when he came out, with current and former NFL players showing their love. Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon tweeted he had played with gay men, and was proud of Nassib for publicly coming out.
Prior to Monday’s game, Outsports spoke with gay and bisexual former NFL players about their feelings on Nassib taking the field, including Dave Kopay, who was the first NFL player to publicly reveal he was gay — in 1979.
“It will be emotional, hugely emotional,” Kopay said. “There’s a few of us that paved the way and it makes me incredibly happy. It’s absolutely fucking huge.”
Nassib, for his part, says his teammates have his back. There was no media circus during training camp, or heading into Monday night.
The NFL, and the sports world, is ready for out gay players. If you have any doubts, you can ask Sir Charles.