By Ken Reed

Las Vegas Raiders’ defensive lineman Carl Nassib announced he was gay this week. He is the first active NFL player to do so.

It was a landmark announcement that will help thousands of young LGBTQ athletes and non-athletes alike. It’s a milestone that has — and will continue to — garner a lot of attention.

Nassib’s announcement has resulted in an outpouring of support, including from President Joe Biden, who tweeted:

“To Carl Nassib and Kumi Yokoyama [a Japanese soccer player who came out as transgender] — two prominent, inspiring athletes who came out this week: I’m so proud of your courage. Because of you, countless kids around the world are seeing themselves in a new light today.”

Nassib’s jersey became the number one seller in the NFL the day after his announcement.

Nassib’s decision, as an active player in America’s favorite sport, can truly make a positive difference. The world of sports, in particular football, might be the last bastion of unadulterated homophobia in American culture. Homophobic language and gay stereotypes are common in football locker rooms and there’s an emphasis on brute physical strength and machoism in the game’s culture.

Nassib’s emotional and spiritual strength will give more LGBTQ athletes the courage to come out and be true to themselves. It’s a shame that we still live in a society in which many LGBTQ citizens feel they need to suffocate who they truly are in order to fit in and be accepted. Nassib was fed up with that kind of life and decided he could be both an NFL player and an authentic and truthful human being.

“I’m a pretty private person so I hope you guys know that I’m not doing this for attention,” said Nassib in his announcement.

“I just think that representation and visibility are so important. I actually hope that one day, videos like this and the whole coming out process are not necessary, but until then I will do my best and my part to cultivate a culture that’s accepting and compassionate and I’m going to start by donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project. They’re an incredible organization, they’re the number one suicide-prevention service for LGBTQ youth in America.”

What a beautiful cause: preventing suicide among LGBTQ youth in America. According to the CDC, LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.

The journalist Patrick Hruby nailed this whole issue while talking about Jason Collins being the first active, openly gay athlete to come out in the NBA:

“Sexuality is irrelevant…. Imagine the lack of joy, the sheer, inescapable loneliness, a lifetime seeking support with a finger planted on the censor button, wondering if anyone will embrace you for being, you know, you. Now realize how utterly unnecessary all of that should be. How unnecessary all of that actually is.”

Some day, an NFL player coming out as gay won’t be a big deal. But today it is. And kudos to Carl Nassib for taking that bold step.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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