Carl Nassib, a defensive lineman for the Las Vegas Raiders, came out publicly as gay in June. This article started as a distraction meter to test the theory that an out player would be a distraction to a team. But the season has destroyed that myth and I’ve decided to retire the meter (forever stuck at 0) and instead will chart Nassib’s week-by-week performance.
Wild Card Weekend (Jan. 15, 2022): at Cincinnati Bengals 26, Raiders 19
Nassib played well and assisted on three tackles, but the Raiders’ season ended in a wild card loss to Cincinnati where they fell nine yards short of the game-tying touchdown.
Notable: Nassib is entering the final year of his three-year contract next season and while he played well enough to warrant coming back, the NFL is unpredictable. The Raiders have a coaching vacancy and if the team cleans house, that could impact Nassib. Pro Football Focus’ metrics say Nassib was the fifth-highest rated Raiders defensive player this season, so even if he is released by the Raiders I am confident he will wind up on another team’s roster in 2022.
Week 18 (Jan. 9, 2022): at Raiders 35, Chargers 32 (OT)
Nassib was inactive Sunday night. But the Raiders (10-7) beat the Los Angeles Chargers (9-8) for their fourth win in a row and a wild card playoff spot. The Raiders will play at the Cincinnati Bengals next Saturday at 4:35 p.m. EST.
Notable: In Nassib’s first season as an openly gay player, he is in the playoffs for the first time and the Raiders for the first time since the 2016 season.
Week 17 (Jan. 2, 2022): Raiders 23, at Indianapolis Colts 20
Nassib did not play in the game since he was added to the NFL’s COVID-19 list Thursday and the league requires a five-day quarantine and other criteria to be met before a player is allowed again on the active roster. The Raiders won their third game in a row to go to 9-7. If the Raiders beat the Chargers next week they are in the playoffs (they also can get in with a loss, but that scenario is unlikely).
Notable: The Chargers at Raiders game Sunday will be shown on national TV on NBC, Sunday at 8:20 p.m. EST. The winner of the game is guaranteed a playoff spot and it will be the last game of the regular season.
Week 16 (Dec. 26): at Raiders 17, at Denver Broncos 13
Nassib had one solo tackle and assisted on two others as the Raiders played tough defense in holding off the Broncos. With the win, the Raiders are 8-7 and very much alive for a wild card spot in the AFC.
Notable: What has been great about Nassib coming out is how he inspires fans from other teams, like Chiefs fan Seth Travis, who posted on Twitter: “Listen I’m a Chiefs fan first and foremost but my husband and I bought Carl Nassib’s Raiders jersey. Representation matters. Inspired.”
Listen I’m a @Chiefs fan first and foremost but my husband and I bought Carl Nassib’s @Raiders jersey. Representation matters. Inspired.— Seth Travis (@sethtravis) December 27, 2021
cc: @TrevorProject @NFL pic.twitter.com/UsxsVQpjIF
Week 15 (Dec. 20): Raiders 16, at Cleveland Browns 14
Nassib was back in action after missing two games with a knee injury. He did not record a tackle but played a lot and had one nice pressure on Browns quarterback Nick Mullens. The Raiders rallied to beat Cleveland 16-14 on a 48-yard field goal on the final play by Daniel Carlson. The Raiders are 7-7 and one game behind in the race for a wild card spot in the AFC.
Notable: Nassib began his career with the Browns after being drafted from Penn State, recording 5 1⁄2 sacks combined in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Week 14 (Dec. 12): at Kansas City Chiefs 48, Raiders 9
Nassib missed his second game in a row with a knee injury, but had he played it wouldn’t have mattered since the Raiders suffered their worst loss of the season to drop to 6-7, last place in the AFC West. The Raiders are still in contention for a wild card playoff spot, but they would probably have to win their final four games to qualify.
Notable: Nassib was selected to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list for being the first NFL player to come out while active.
Week 13 (Dec. 5): Washington Football Team 17, at Raiders 15
Nassib missed the game with a knee injury and is considered week to week. The Raiders play again next Sunday at Kansas City. The loss to Washington dropped the Raiders to 6-6, leaving them third in the AFC West.
Week 12 (Nov. 25, Thanksgiving): Raiders 36, Dallas Cowboys 33 (overtime)
Nassib had no tackles and left the game with a knee injury in the first half. There was no word yet on the severity of the injury. Las Vegas won for the first time in a month and is now 6-5 and very much in the playoff chase.
Week 11 (Nov. 21): Cincinnati Bengals 32, at Raiders 13
Nassib had four solo tackles, including one for a loss, as the Raiders lost their third straight game. Las Vegas fell to 5-5 and is now tied for third place in the AFC West, 11⁄2 games behind Kansas City.
Notable: Nassib’s four tackles were the most he has had in a game this season and continues his solid season.
Week 10 (Nov. 14): Kansas City Chiefs 41, at Raiders 14
Nassib played on defense and special teams but had no tackles as the Raiders were blown out by the Chiefs on national TV. Las Vegas fell to 5-4 and is tied for second place in the AFC West with a 5-4 record.
Notable: Nassib announced he has a boyfriend and there is already a Twitter fan page account celebrating the two. The person who started the page tweeted:
“Got a valid question on this account, which was whether I run it b/c I find Erik or Carl Nassib attractive. They’re adorable together but the page is more to celebrate the NFL’s first same-sex couple.”
It’s a rather wholesome account for those who want to follow along and learn things about Nassib, such as:
“Poor Carl will miss @Adele tonight since he’s playing, he’s posted several times that he’s a huge fan. Hopefully Erik records it for him.”
Week 9 (Nov. 7): at New York Giants 23, Raiders 17
Nassib had three solo tackles as the Raiders lost on the road. Las Vegas fell to 5-3 and remains tied in the AFC West with a 5-3 record.
Notable: The game ended an awful week for the Raiders following the release of wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, who faces 46 years in prison after a car crash that killed a woman and her dog and injured Ruggs and his girlfriend. He is charged with felony driving under the influence resulting in death and reckless driving after being clocked driving at 156 mph and having a blood-alcohol level twice the Nevada limit. The woman’s death and Ruggs arrest cast a pall over the Raiders this week.
Week 8 (Oct. 31): Raiders’ bye week
The Raiders were on a bye but still picked up a half-game in the standings when the Chargers lost. The Raiders (5-2) are alone in first place in the AFC West. They next play at the New York Giants on Nov. 7.
Week 7 (Oct. 24): at Raiders 33, Philadelphia Eagles 22
Nassib had one tackle and one near sack of Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts as the Raiders won their second game since Jon Gruden resigned as coach following the release of racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic emails. With the win, the Raiders are alone in first place in the AFC West, a half-game ahead of the idle L.A. Chargers.
Notable: On Twitter, Eagles fan Ben Livingston, who describes himself as “America’s only gay sports radio personality turned data scientist,” tweeted about a cool moment he and his boyfriend Scott, had at the game in Las Vegas:
“A Raiders fan from Iowa saw my boyfriend’s Carl Nassib jersey and offered to send us a signed Nassib rookie card.”
Livingston, who was a producer at sports talk radio WIP in Philadelphia before moving to New York, gave me some of the background: “We were approached inside the gate, he [the fan] saw my boyfriend’s jersey (I wasn’t wearing mine at the moment. I’m an Eagles fan but he’s a big Raiders fan) and made the offer out of the blue. Said he bought it online when the story came out because he figured it would be a nice thing to have.”
Week 6 (Oct. 17): Raiders 34, at Denver Broncos 24
Nassib had one tackle as the Raiders went into Denver and snapped a two-game losing streak and move to 4-2, tied with the Chargers in the AFC West.
Notable: The Raiders played their most complete game of the season under interim coach Rich Bisaccia, hired after Jon Gruden was forced to resign following the release of his emails that were homophobic, racist, sexist and transphobic.
Last week, two days after the first batch of emails was released, the Raiders played their worst game of the season in a loss to the Bears, proving that Gruden was a huge distraction. Now that he’s gone, the Raiders look like a new and improved team, at least after one game.
In the wake of Gruden’s resignation and with the revelation that his coach used anti-gay slurs regularly, Nassib took a day off from practice. His decision was met with full support from star tight end Darren Waller.
“I support that [the absence] 100 percent,” Waller said via The Athletic.com. “He’s pretty much a lone wolf when it comes to that. Nobody should be able to tell him how to feel. Nobody should be able to tell him how to grieve. He deserves to take time for himself because that’s a lot to process.
“Somebody that you’ve been invested in, battled with and you come out and there’s a quote that says something like what was said, I can’t imagine what he must be feeling and I respect him wanting to take his space and be able to come back clear-headed.”
During the CBS TV broadcast, the announcers said they requested Nassib to come to their pre-game production meeting, but he declined. He is clearly not ready to talk about what transpired under Gruden.
Week 5 (Oct. 10): Chicago Bears 20, at Raiders 9
It was a quiet day for Nassib and frustrating day for the Raiders, who lost their second straight game to fall to 3-2. The defensive lineman did not record a tackle for the first time all season. But he was hardly alone. The Raiders just weren’t competitive in this one. They’re now tied for second in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos.
Quotable: “This is my third team in the league and I’ve played in every single stadium and I’ve never heard fans like Raiders fans,” Nassib said in an interview with Raiders.com (his segment starts at 17:50). “I think Penn State has the best college environment, I think we [Raiders] have the best NFL environment, by far. There absolutely insane. I really love how intense they are, how much they love us, how much they support us.”
What I loved about this interview was that is was all football-oriented and didn’t focus on Nassib being gay. There’s clearly a time and place for that, but it needn’t be the issue in every interview. He’s a football player who happens to be gay.
Week 4 (Oct. 4): at Los Angeles Chargers 28, Raiders 14
Nassib had one tackle and twice pressured Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert on Monday Night, just missing a sack each time. The Raiders lost for the first time this season and are now 3-1, tied for the top spot in the AFC West. Distraction meter: 0
Notable: Nassib announced that he has a boyfriend.
Quotable: This tweet stood out in a sea of mostly lame jokes on Twitter about Nassib as actually being clever and not offensive: “Carl Nassib just tackled Justin Jackson, and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time an out gay man has tackled a Democratic Socialist in the history of the NFL.” Jackson, a Chargers running back, is pretty much to the left of Bernie Sanders politically.
Week 3 (Sept. 26): at Raiders 31, Miami Dolphins 28 (OT)
Nassib had a great game Sunday, with one solo tackle and assists on three other tackles. His best play was late in the second quarter when his wide rush led to a sack of Dolphins QB Jacoby Brissett; Nassib got credit for a 1⁄2 sack with teammate Solomon Thomas. The Raiders went to 3-0 for the first time since 2002, the last year they went to the Super Bowl. It was the Raiders’ second overtime win this season. Distraction meter: 0
Notable: For years, one fear people had about a player coming out as gay would be a loss of endorsements. How things have changed. You can buy a Nassib T-shirt or hoodie, licensed by the NFL Players’ Assn.
Week 2 (Sept. 19): Raiders 26, at Pittsburgh Steelers 17
Nassib was limited with an injured pectoral muscle and recorded one tackle. The touchdown-underdog Raiders went on the road and upset Pittsburgh to go to 2-0.
Quotable: When Nassib came out, one of his biggest supporters was Zach Banner, a Steelers offensive lineman who played with Nassib when both were on the Cleveland Browns.
“Before he even came out, you know he’s not only a good person but a great teammate,” Banner said. “I empathize for not only the gay community but the LGBTQ+ community and everything that really falls underneath the category of someone’s sexuality. In no way or form have I ever discriminated against something like that. I’m not built like that. Honestly, sometimes I really don’t understand how you can hate somebody for who they love and what they do.
“If he was in my locker room, I would totally, completely support him, which a lot of his guys with the Raiders have,” Banner said. “They’ve done it publicly, and the reasons that that’s important is, some people get pissed off about it, but those are the same people that are kind of really holding us back. Their mindset and opinions are really irrelevant. It’s not so much just a support in Carl, but supporting kids like Carl who don’t have that outlet, who sometimes don’t have that support, who don’t have the financial means to be just fine with living their lifestyle regardless of what anybody cares about it. Who are bullied. Who are sometimes forced into suicide and to hurting themselves.”
Week 1 (Sept. 13): at Raiders 33, Baltimore Ravens 27 (OT)
Nassib was a star in his first game as an openly gay player, recording three tackles and a sack/forced fumble in a wild overtime to set up the Raiders’ game-winning score and go 1-0.
Quotable: “A lot of firsts today,” Nassib said after the game. “I was really taking it in as much as I could... I’ve played in a lot of games... and I won’t forget this one.”
2021 Distraction Meter Total: 0