It’s not a news flash when someone wishes their boyfriend a happy birthday on social media. But when the message is sent by the NFL’s first openly gay player, it does have meaning.
“Happy birthday to the best boyfriend I could dream of. Thanks for laughing at my jokes. Jeg elsker dig så meget,” Carl Nassib wrote Sunday to his boyfriend, Soren Dahl, adding the “I love you very much” in Danish at the end.
Nassib, 30, came out as gay in June 2021 while with the Las Vegas Raiders. He played last season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is now a free agent.
For about a year after coming out, Nassib was very guarded about his private life and being gay, giving very few interviews besides some Q&A with beat reporters. This has changed last last year with his relationship to Dahl, which the two acknowledged in social media posts. In April, Dahl posted on Instragram his 30th birthday wishes to Nassib.
What gives this meaning is the normalizing of same-sex relationships in sports, especially among men (out women have been doing this for years). What once seemed inconceivable — a gay NFL player celebrating his boyfriend’s birthday — is now considered cute and endearing, as witnessed by the 56,000 likes Nassib’s Instagram post got, along with hundreds of comments.
Nassib is so far the only out NFL player, but he has given a template for future players on how being yourself and revealing information on your own terms is very empowering.
With NFL training camps starting in a week, it’s unclear if Nassib will be playing again. He’s financially secure and has talked excitedly about developing Rayze, a philanthropic app he created. Whether he retires because no team is interested or he has no desire and turned down offers, it looks like Nassib won’t have problems moving on to the next stage of his life.