NFL Support Pours In After Former Buccaneers' DE Carl Nassib Comes Out

According to the Trevor Project 2020 National Survey, over 80% of youth said that celebrities who are LGBTQ positively impact how they feel about being LGBTQ.
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Photo: Carl Nassib; Credit: Buccaneers.com

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and current Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib made history Monday as the first active NFL player to come out. 

Nassib made the announcement via Instagram.

"I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay," Nassib said in a video recording. "I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now but finally feel comfortable getting it off my chest. I really have the best life, the best family, friends and job a guy can ask for.

Nassib also committed to donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project, a national organization that provides crisis and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ teens and young people. The donation was later matched by the NFL.

Support from players across the league poured in, including Giants running back Saquon Barkley, Cardinals defensive end JJ Watt, Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins, former Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, and Texans linebacker Tae Davis

In 2021, Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in America continue to face discrimination in their daily lives. The Trevor Project found that one in three LGBTQ youth who were not “out” to anyone about their sexual orientation participated in sports, compared to one in five who were “out” to all or most of those they knew. 

Nassib's announcement was a monumental step to help create a safe space for other players in the NFL to follow. Troy Vincent, the executive vice president of football operations, wrote an essay last year in which he stated that the NFL was ready to welcome its first openly gay player.

"We must continue to focus on creating an accepting environment and work together, unrelentingly, to stamp out bullying and to eradicate discriminatory language," Vincent wrote. "Most importantly, we need to walk the walk." 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the following in a statement: "The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth today. Representation matters. We share his hope that someday soon statements like his will no longer newsworthy as we march toward full equality for the LGBTQ+ community. We wish Carl the best of luck this coming season." 

In 2014, former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam came out before being selected in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams, but he did not make the cut for the final 53-man roster and later spent some time on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. Sam retired from football citing mental health concerns and has since become an author and motivational speaker. 

A little over a year later, the United States Supreme Court would finally make gay marriage legal at the federal level. Researchers found that suicide rates among LGBTQ Americans fell dramatically once marriage equality was passed nationwide. 

The Trevor Project estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth (13-24) seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S. and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds. In the same survey, 80% said that celebrities who are LGBTQ positively impact how they feel about being LGBTQ, showing the importance of representation. 

According to the Human Rights Campaign, state legislatures have enacted more anti-LGBTQ laws this year than in the last three years combined. So far in 2021, more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced across the country. Of those, more than 116 directly target transgender people and about half of those ban transgender girls and women from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. 

In 2020, the Trevor Project reported that LGBTQ youth who participated in sports reported nearly 20% lower rates of depressive symptoms compared to those who did not. 

On the first day of Pride Month, President Biden again called "on the Congress to pass the Equality Act, which will ensure civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ people and families across our country."

Carl Nassib could become the first openly gay player to play in an NFL regular-season game.