Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders made NFL history from the yard of his West Chester, PA, home on June 21. In a video posted on Instagram, the six-year veteran became the first active, openly gay NFL player.
“I just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay,” Nassib said.
A walk-on at Penn State, Nassib played sparingly before an explosive senior year. In 2015, he led the nation with fifteen and a half sacks. In addition to being the Big Ten defensive player of the year, he was a unanimous All-American. He was also winner of the Ted Hendricks award for the country’s best defensive end as well as the Lombardi Award that goes to the nation’s best linebacker or lineman.
Nassib was selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He played for the Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before moving to the Raiders. Nassib signed a three-year, $25 million contract with Las Vegas in 2020.
Creating a new chapter in NFL history
While several NFL players including David Kopay and Esera Tuaolo have come out after retirement, the announcement by the 28-year-old Nassib is significant because he’s an active player. Michael Sam, a defensive end at Missouri, was the first gay player to be drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft. But Sam, who was taken by the Los Angeles Rams in the 7th round, never played an NFL game.
After his announcement, Nassib received support from the Raiders and across the NFL. Saquon Barkley, Giants running back and former college teammate posted “Much respect brudda.” James Franklin, Nassib’s coach at Penn State, tweeted “I was proud of Carl when he led the nation in sacks, but I’m even more proud of him now.” Jason Collins, who became the first active gay NBA player in 2013 tweeted, “Incredibly happy for him and can’t wait to watch him play this upcoming season!”
For his part, Nassib said he was a private person, but wanted to make the announcement for a while. “I just think that representation and visibility are so important,” he said.
Nassib also said he would be donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project, an organization providing suicide prevention services to the LGBTQ+ youth in the United States. The NFL announced yesterday it would be matching the donation.
Additionally, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Nassib’s No. 94 Raiders jersey is the top-selling jersey in the league since the player’s announcement.
In a written post that accompanied the video, Nassib wrote that he also felt gratitude and relief. “I am a lanky walk-on who is living his dream.”
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