It’s virtually certain that Derek Carr’s nine-year tenure as Las Vegas Raiders quarterback is coming to and end after Carr wrote a farewell column to Raiders fans, three weeks after being benched. As LGBTQ sports fans, we’ll always remember Carr fondly for how he treated an openly gay teammate.
When then-Raiders lineman Carl Nassib came out as gay in the summer of 2021, his teammate Carr spoke several times about supporting Nassib even though he said he was not sure how everyone on the team felt.
“He’s our brother,” Carr said in July 2021 on Cris Collinsworth’s podcast. “So, if you want to mess with him, you have to go through us.”
That’s exactly the type of sentiment Nassib needed to hear from someone like Carr who was the face of the franchise.
“At first, I was shocked because I didn’t know,” Carr told Michael Smith and Michael Holley on the “Brothers From Another” podcast. “There was no — he never talked about it to any one of the teammates. His moment was when he grabbed his phone and did it that way [on Instagram]. And I called him. He was working out, so I texted him. And he sent a text right back. And he said, ‘Derek, you have no idea how much it meant to me for you to reach out.’ He said, ‘I was hoping that you would reach out.’ I’ll let his words be his words, but to me I wanted him to know.”
Some of Carr’s references to Nassib’s being gay as a “lifestyle” showed ignorance, but the sum total of his comments over several interviews hit the right note.
“Our team has been all for having his back,” Carr said to Collinsworth. “That doesn’t mean everyone agrees with the lifestyle or agrees with that.”
“But, we live in a country nowadays like people think if you don’t agree then you can’t love one another and have their back. And, like, that is the farthest thing from the truth. And so there are some guys that have raised a question or two. But, they all say without a doubt we have his back.”
An NFL roster has 53 players, from diverse backgrounds and with many with strong Christian beliefs (some from denominations where being gay may have been preached against from the pulpit), so it wasn’t a slam dunk that Nassib would be as welcome as he was.
Nassib played the 2021 season for the Raiders, which culminated in the team’s first playoff appearance since 2016. His being gay was — in a good sense — a non-story and we have people like Carr to thank for that. He helped set a tone that Nassib was his teammate and that was that. While imperfect with his language, Carr is what an ally should look like.
(By the way, Nassib is in the playoffs again and will play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild-card round on Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys.)