Table of Contents
As this article was written by three different writers, we shall be their paragraphs will be attributed to them. The perspectives are of Jack Colin (Trans Man), Tyler Sear (Ex-College Football Player) and Sean Aversa (Longtime Follower of the NFL).
Jack: The Easy Way Carl Nassib Said “I Am Gay” – Most Impressive
Jack: When I sat down to eat my dinner a few nights ago, my father had the news on and the top story came up. He turned to me and said, “He is the first”. The instant thought that came to my mind was, “that’s not possible”. I faced the TV to see it for myself. He was right like he always is. The football player calmly, confidently, and easily said three words that have been too hard for so many people to say out loud. In only one minute he changed the narrative for numerous people. Just like that, “I am gay”.
Growing up closeted, you learn that coming out is hard to do. You hear the horror stories of children getting kicked out of their homes and their own families cutting them off. You watch TV and movies with characters crying as they finally tell someone their deepest secret. Real-life coming-out videos have hesitations and nervousness in their voices. Even for myself, there was almost a question mark at the end of sentences in case I wanted to take it back, but I knew. Nassib’s video changed this process and expectation of what coming out is supposed to be like. Not a tissue in sight, just the facts. And THANK YOU!
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Sean: Bigger Than Football
Sean: On June 21st, 2021 during National Pride Month, defensive end and pass rusher for the Las Vegas Raiders, Carl Nassib, took to his Instagram to announce his coming out as gay becoming the first active player in the NFL to come out publicly and publicize this information in history.
In Nassib’s announcement, he stated, “Just wanted 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.”
Nassib went on to express why he felt the need to make the announcement stating, “I just think representation and visibility are so important. I actually hope that 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 and compassionate.”
While his achievements in football are noteworthy, his bravery is what will always be remembered.
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Tyler: Carl Nassib Bettered Football and the World – So Powerfully and Yet, So Easily
Tyler: Every Sunday, we sit down on our couches with friends and family, maybe have a beer or two, eat some snacks, and enjoy our weekend by watching our favorite teams and players go to war on a striped patch of grass. This time away from the trials of everyday life provides momentary bliss, a place where we can scream out in joy, curse in anger, and exclaim in ecstasy and celebration. We build bonds with these faceless men who run and catch a ball, score a touchdown, and celebrate. Win or lose, we come back because we love it; we love the bond that we form between the players, the team, and ourselves. Week in and week out we root for this idealized concept of these men procured within our minds, but do we ever truly care to get to know the real man?
As fans of sport, it’s very easy to get lost in the emotion of the game and lose sight of the fact that the man in the arena is simply but a man, the same as you or I. We don’t care to learn what makes the linebacker for our favorite team happy or sad. We don’t learn what makes them uniquely them. We don’t even learn what they like to do in their free time. But we do love them. We love them so long as that linebacker fills the gap quickly, is a strong tackler, and is able to cover a tight end downfield. Only when something affects us personally or is so profound that it affects millions do we begin to explore the man beneath the helmet.
Once we finally do begin to explore the personalities of the players, we are presented with men of dedication, loyalty, and unrivaled strength. When Carl Nassib shook the foundation of the patriarchal body that is the NFL, we, as fans, all got a brief glimpse of the personality behind the jersey number.
Nassib did this in his traditional low-key, laid-back way. He announced his truth and made steps towards bettering the lives of countless queer children across the country in a partnership with The Trevor Project through a simple Instagram post. “Hey, guys, it’s me, Carl Nassib and I just wanted to take this time to say that I’m gay.”
Nassib proudly chose to wear his truth as a badge of honor and thanked his friends, family, and teammates for their acceptance and support. He went on to speak about the change he hoped to enact in the future and the risks that LGBTQ+ people, especially the youth, face daily.
“Young LGBTQ kids are over 5x more likely than their straight friends to consider suicide… it brings me incredible sadness to think that our LGBTQ youth are at such an elevated risk for suicide. I feel an immense responsibility to help out in any way I can – and you can too. Studies have shown that all it takes is one accepting adult to decrease the risk of an LGBTQ kid attempting suicide by 40%. Whether you’re a friend, a parent, a coach, or a teammate – you can be that person.
Lastly, I hope everyone can understand that I am just one person. I am a lanky walk-on who is living his dream. I only have a small window to achieve greatness in my sport and I owe it to my team, coaches, and Raider fans to be locked in for the upcoming season…. Thank you everyone for your support.”
Nassib commented also on his hope that statements like this will no longer be necessary in the future while also of course believing that visibility and representation are far too important at this moment in time to disregard. He then explained the aforementioned partnership with The Trevor Project to whom he will be donating $100,000.
With his statement, we were all granted the absolute privilege to see beneath Carl Nassib’s #94 helmet.
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Jack and Sean: The Ones Who’ve Walked Before – LGBTQ+ Representation in the NFL
Jack: Nassib is not the first NFL player to claim their sexuality, but stating it while being an active player in the NFL is what makes this special. There have been a number of retired players that have come out years after their run. One of the first-ever in sports being Dave Kopay from the San Fransico 49rs. Other notable players being Roy Simmons, Wade Davis, Jerry Smith, Esera Tuaolo, and a handful of other brave men. Sadly, not all of the past coming out stories have been wholeheartedly accepted by fans and the NFL. Opportunities were taken away for them because of their way of life. Though the NFL may not have the best track record with a response to their players coming out, they took a step in the right direction by matching Nassib’s $100,000 donation to The Trevor Project.
The Trevor Project is an organization that saves vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth who are struggling with a lack of support in their life. Their hotline has helped thousands and thousands of kids and has been the spine of the people that don’t believe anyone has their back.
Sean: While Nassib is the first active player to come out as gay publicly, there have been gay NFL players in the past. Prior to being drafted in the NFL, Michael Sam, defensive end and pass rusher from the University of Missouri, came out as gay publically after the conclusion of his illustrious college football career that saw Sam become a consensus All-American and SEC, the Southeastern Conference, Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. During the 2014 NFL Draft, Sam became the first openly gay college prospect to be drafted into the NFL by the then St. Louis Rams in the 7th round at pick 249.
The drafting of Sam drew praises from President Barack Obama, “From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove every day that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are,”. Unfortunately, Sam was cut from the team in final roster cuts and was later signed to the Dallas Cowboys practice squad but was unable to ever play a regular-season snap in the NFL.
Recently, ex-NFL practice squad player Colton Underwood came out as gay publicly on ‘Good Morning America’ in an interview with Robin Roberts. Better known for his time on ABC’s ‘The Bachelor’, Underwood bounced around practice squads and training camps spending significant time with the then-San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. Underwood, like Sam, never was able to take a regular-season snap in the NFL and did not come out until long after his NFL career had come to a close. Enter into the picture: Carl Nassib.
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Tyler and Sean: The History and Journey of Carl Nassib – Who is Carl Nassib?
Tyler and Sean: Once we remove the on-field persona, we are introduced to a soft-spoken, handsome, and caring individual, a person who is the exemplification of wholesomeness. Growing up in a small town in North-Eastern Pennsylvania, it was Carl’s dream to attend Penn State University to play football for one of the most widely respected programs in the nation.
Although he was not offered a scholarship, Carl was not deterred. He walked on and, impressed coaches and in just two short years, became a rotational player for the Nittany Lions. Nassib quickly found himself as a major player in a stout PSU defense and was earning the respect of his peers on and off the field. Studying Biology as an undergrad and attending a year of medical school for postgraduate, Carl was a shining example of what hard work and a good attitude can accomplish.
Nassib excelled in college football becoming a unanimous All-American, the Big Ten’s Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year, as well as winning the Lombardi Award for best college football lineman or linebacker. After his senior season at PSU, Carl was awarded the Lott IMPACT Trophy for being a defensive player that represented the qualities embodied by Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott — Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity, a highly prestigious award the denoted not only his on-field prowess but also his dedication to humanitarianism. This was certainly not his last time receiving a bit of limelight for his off-field efforts to help others.
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When the time came, Nassib was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns at pick 65. While at his time in Cleveland, Nassib would become a star on HBO’s sports docu-series ‘Hard Knocks’ that covers an NFL training camp at the start of each season. After two years with the Browns, Nassib was released and found his way to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he saw an uptick in his production which eventually landed him a $25 million contract in Las Vegas with Head Coach Jon Gruden.
During his early years in the NFL, Carl was featured on the TV show ‘Hard Knocks’ which follows one NFL team through practice and meetings. A clip of him teaching his teammates about financial literacy went viral. Carl was teaching them the importance of financial stability and ways to more efficiently manage and invest their money. Knowing the statistics of NFL players that eventually go broke is a horrifying reality that Carl was very much aware of. More than 78% of NFL athletes are bankrupt within 2 years of leaving professional football. NFL teams and colleges alike do a horrible job of preparing and educating their players in financial literacy. Carl took it upon himself to help his contemporaries where they most sorely needed him.
Nassib has been a very solid player and has enjoyed a five-year NFL career up to this point — this is a tremendous achievement. The average NFL career lasts two years, so to exceed that by becoming a player that contributes down-to-down, game-to-game, is a feat many aspiring professional athletes only dream of, not to mention the multi-million dollar contract.
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Sean: Nassib will become the first-ever openly gay player to take a snap in a regular-season NFL game
Sean: Taking all this into consideration makes Nassib coming out all the braver. While it is inarguable that sexual preference should not impact one’s ability to maintain their roster spot in the NFL and that play should speak for itself, it has to be incredibly daunting to be the first. By coming out, Nassib became the first-ever active NFL player to come out as gay and will become the first-ever openly gay player to take a snap in a regular-season NFL game. What makes Nassib’s story all the more brave and important is despite this fear of the unknown,
Nassib chose to come out in an effort to help others. Nassib in his announcement stated, “I feel an immense responsibility to help in any way I can – and you can too. Studies have shown that all it takes is one accepting adult to decrease the risk of an LGBTQ kid attemping suicide by 40%.”.
Along with his $100,000 donation to The Trevor Project, an organization that specializes in crisis intervention and suicide prevention in LGBTQ kids, Nassib’s selflessness and courage cannot be put into words.
Jack: About Time for an Openly Gay and Active NFL Football Player
Jack: I was definitely not the only one shocked about the news. Not that he came out, but that it took so long for this to be the first. During this time, people thought we would have flying cars, so why has this one step in the NFL taken so long? I can only assume that the “locker room talk” is a huge influence for players considering coming out. There is a dangerous stereotype that has followed the LGBTQ+ community for too long, which is we are predators. Though many will not say it as bluntly, there is tension in the air when people enter a locker room with you. It could be plain ignorance or a senseless feeling of nervousness.
These are harmful thoughts that have damaged the reputation of LGBTQ+ members when in reality they have always been this way and feel no different walking into the changing room. This stereotype has been ingrained in members to the point where some may feel uncomfortable with the thought of making someone else uncomfortable. To fix this is to do what Nassib has done, just say it and own it. It is not the only thing about him, it is a fact that helps make him who he is. Confidence goes a long way and makes surrounding people comfortable.
In Nassib’s video, he states, “I think representation and visibility are so important”. Right you are, Carl. The people that kids look up to can’t all be fictional characters of what life could be like if you came out. We want hard evidence and Ellen isn’t enough anymore. The people that think this shouldn’t be a big deal are right to a degree. We wish it wasn’t either, but it is crucial for kids to see themselves in real people. It is the same significance of why people of color have to be represented in all areas of life.
It creates normalcy that the United States is not used to seeing. Once that normalcy is continued it will create hope and drive for kids to work hard because there is proof that they can make it. It is hard being the first, but it can be just as hard being the second. That is why we must keep pushing forward and become the foundation for future generations.
Sean: Reaction Across The Sports World
Sean: Nassib’s coming out was met with universal support from the sports world — from professional sports analysts to coaches and players to entire organizations, compassion and understanding showed up in a big way. Nassib’s current head coach, Jon Gruden, was quoted as saying, “I learned a long time ago what makes a man different is what makes him great.” when asked to comment on Nassib coming out. His former college head coach at Penn State, James Franklin, also offered his support, taking to Twitter to say, “I was proud of Carl when he led the nation in sacks, but I’m even more proud of him now.”
Around the NFL, former teammates of Nassib, such as New York Giants star running back Saquan Barkley, also expressed support — Barkley quote tweeted Nassib’s coming out video with, “Much respect brudda”. Nassib did not just receive praise from players within the NFL however, seeing former NBA player Jason Collins say this in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, “He’s going to have a positive impact on someone else’s life that he may never meet in his lifetime. I’ve met many people who have come up to me and told me how my story has impacted them.” Collins in 2013 came out as the first gay active professional athlete in the major four North American sports leagues while playing for the Washington Wizards.
Rival organization to the Las Vegas Raiders, the Los Angeles Chargers, tweeted out their support for Nassib stating, “Some things are bigger than a rivalry.” NFL fans showed support as well as Nassib’s jersey shot up to the number one selling NFL jersey on Fanatics. In the sports media world, the support for Nassib was equally as loud seeing prominent ESPN analysts such as Mina Kimes tweeting out, “Carl Nassib made history today–and his courage will help millions of people feel a little more accepted tomorrow.” Former Indianapolis Colts punter turned sports analyst, Pat McAfee, spoke about Nassib’s coming out on his hit “regional” show that streams internationally, The Pat McAfee Show, stating he was “pumped” for Nassib to now be able to live his truth and be himself.
On the show, in reference to the statistic brought up by Nassib in his coming out post, McAfee stated, “I just think we are at the time now where we are learning a lot more about everything. . . I feel like the LGBTQ community is one we can continue to learn about, continue to grow, and ultimately, hopefully, live as a society completely together . . .” Even actor Jason Sudeikis, star of ‘Horrible Bosses’, took to Twitter as his character Ted Lasso, the titular character from the hit AppleTv+ series ‘Ted Lasso’, tweeting, “If we don’t love ourselves, we can’t love others. It’s like tryin’ to win arcade tickets without any quarters. Today there are kids across the country who will love and accept themselves that much more. And for that, I thank you, Carl.”
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Jack: Masculinity Battle
Jack: In the past year, there have been many conversations about what masculinity entails. In the most conservative and traditional sense, there is nothing more “manly” than a football player. Tough, rough, strong, and people expect straight. Harry Style’s Vogue moment had the world divided between what is masculine and what isn’t. This is Nassib’s moment of defining his masculinity, which is the same as when he kept it private. He is still the tough, rough, strong man, he just happens to be gay.
Sean: Continuing to Strive For Kindness
Sean: Through all the commending of Carl Nassib’s bravery for coming out as the first gay active NFL player, one sentiment consistently rang true: hopefully one day announcements like things are no longer newsworthy. As seen by the reaction around the league, compassion and love continues to win and will continue to win because of people like Carl Nassib. Nassib who, while unfairly, must announce who he is to the world does so to help and support others who are struggling with their own identity and sexuality — one can only imagine the courage required to come out to the world, let alone having the burden of being the first.
Carl Nassib has been a success in his profession, but his bravery, courage, and willingness to help others is his true success and one that I hope the NFL will take notice of and nominate him for the Walter Peyton NFL Man of the Year Award this fall. Until then, Nassib will continue to be a role model for LGBTQ+ athletes and youth, while also reminding us all that we still have much to learn and a long way to go, but with compassion, empathy, and love for one another we can take more and more steps towards a better tomorrow.
The Trevor Project was “founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award®-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25”. Nassib pledged $100,000 to the Trevor Project.
Tyler: Rooting for Carl Nassib is not hard to do. If you’re a Raiders fan, you likely already do. But for everyone else across the globe, getting to know the man beneath the helmet really shows his impressive character. From being a walk-on football player and becoming a med student, to entering the NFL and helping his peers in one of the most deficient categories that plagues athletes today, to being the first openly gay NFL player, Carl Nassib’s story is one of determination, toughness, and most importantly, humanity. With the help of Carl Nassib, we can hopefully begin to usher in a new age of understanding within the world of football.
Jack: We strive for a world that has no need for coming out parties and headlining news when a celebrity comes out, but for now, that is the world we live in. As a person that is a part of the LGBTQ+ community and has had the experience of coming out, I say to the people like Nassib who have fully embraced who they are and live with pride, remember the ones who did not get the chance to and the ones that struggle to do so now. The emotional rollercoaster of self-discovery is different for every rider, but we all want the same destination… happiness.
Carl Nassib is paving a more supportive and LGBTQ+ friendly road to the NFL and football in general. The harsh stereotype of the quarterback pushing the gay kid into the lockers at school has got to come to an end. The proof comes already with his 94 jersey being the number one seller in the league right now. This coming out has made a historical Pride month moment for NFL fans and people across the country to never forget.
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Tyler Sear is an athlete and writer with a philosophical perspective to film. With aspirations to direct feature length films, Tyler brings a critical eye and philosophic approach to film, striving to give unbiased opinions while campaigning for equality and impartiality in Hollywood, today. This sense of morality makes Tyler uniquely qualified to address timely issues and recent releases within film. By tackling interesting topics, Tyler aligns with Hollywood Insider’s intentional mission to ignore sensationalized rumor and strive to present factual and entertaining content.