THE ROOT - On Monday, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to come out as gay.
The Penn State alum broke the news with a touching announcement on Instagram.
“What’s up people?” he began. “I’m at my house here in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest.”
He continued, “I’m a pretty private person so I hope you guys know that I’m really not doing this for attention. I just think that representation and visibility are so important. I actually hope that like one day, videos like this and the whole coming-out process are just not necessary. But until then, I’m going to do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that’s accepting, that’s compassionate, and I’m going to start by donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project.”
According to its website, the Trevor Project was founded in 1998 and provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“They’re an incredible organization,” Nassib said. “They’re the No. 1 suicide-prevention service for LGBTQ youth in America. And they’re truly doing incredible things. I’m very excited to be a part of it, help in any way that I can, and I’m really pumped to see what the future holds.”
One former NFL player who can relate to the challenges of participating in such a hypermasculine environment as a member of the LGBTQ+ community is former All-SEC defensive lineman Michael Sam. Sam had aspirations of becoming the NFL’s first openly gay player himself after becoming a seventh-round pick in 2014, but sadly, he was unable to make the Los Angeles Rams’ active roster. But as the news of Nassib’s announcement began to circulate, he was one of the first among the NFL’s fraternity to offer encouragement.
“Carl Nassib thank you for owning your truth and especially your donation to [the Trevor Project],” Sam tweeted. “LBGTQ people are more likely to commit suicide than heterosexuals. I hope and pray people will take note to this. Thank you again Carl and look forward to seeing you play on the field.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also released a statement praising the 28-year-old for “sharing his truth.”
“The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth today,” Goodell wrote. “Representation matters. We share his hope that someday soon statements like his will no longer be newsworthy as we march toward full equality for the LGBTQ+ community. We wish Carl the best of luck this coming season.”
Plenty of other players and organizations have since flooded social media to offer their support.
“Carl Nassib’s story will not only have a profound impact on the future of LGBTQ visibility and acceptance in sports, but sends a strong message to so many LGBTQ people, especially youth, that they too can one day grow up to be and succeed as a professional athlete like him,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement.
As Nassib said himself, hopefully one day we’ll exist in a world where announcements like these aren’t required. But until that day arrives, it’s imperative that we continue to fight for inclusivity and tolerance.
(Jay Connor is a writer for The Root where this was first published.)