Carl Nassib is unique.
And at the same time, he’s just like everyone else in the NFL.
The outside linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was signed late in the preseason, played some snaps, and made an appearance in the team’s Week 1 Sunday Night Football dominance of the Dallas Cowboys.
Absent from said appearance was anything about him being a trailblazing out gay athlete.
There were no rainbow flags, no special TV package about him being gay. He was a substitute coming off the bench. That was it.
Many have speculated that gay athletes stay in the closet in part because they don’t want to be known as “they gay athlete.”
Nassib is showing them that after some fanfare, gay athletes are just another guy on the roster.
We’ve been told for years that gay athletes in big-time men’s pro sports will create a “media circus” for his team, that somehow being out will undermine the title championships of the team that plays an out gay athlete.
In Week 1 of the 2022 season, virtually no one gave a crap that Nassib was gay. Or that he was “publicly out.” That he was a “trailblazer” was utterly lost in his push to make the 46-player game-day roster (which he made).
Nassib — trailblazing athlete who has broken barriers for gay athletes across pro sports — was simply an outside linebacker trying to make a tackle.
It was a run-of-the-mill appearance in the game by Nassib, who recorded no official NFL stats, but who seemed to (according to an Instagram story by Nassib) get a hit on Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (who has since had surgery and won’t play for the next few weeks).
We at Outsports have said for many years that the nonsense about gay athletes being an issue has been just that: nonsense. None of the Cowboys or Buccaneers players cared about whom Nassib might be dating for the three hours they played that key game.
And yes, in the NFL with 17 regular-season games, every week is “key.”
NBC commentators Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth never mentioned Nassib (as far as I know — I didn’t hear it), or that he was playing as an out gay man in the game.
You have to search hard to find news stories over the last week mentioning Nassib, just as you’d have to search hard to find stories about any back-up linebacker in the NFL.
Now in Nassib’s second season with his second team after coming out: It’s all pitch-perfect.
The Bucs are already tied for the division lead. Somewhat meaningless, yes. Yet with their personnel and ageless Tom Brady as the quarterback — and already a road win under their belt — it’s playoffs-or-bust for this Tampa Bay team.
We’ll be cheering all the way for Nassib to be there for every minute, and make his second playoff appearance in as many years.