Until this day, no out man has ever played on an American professional football team. That means Americans have never turned on the TV to see an honest gay man in the end zone. Las Vegas Raiders’ Carl Nassib made history on Monday by casually coming out as gay via social media. While retired players such as Dave Kopay (who has been called the father of the modern LGBTQ sports movement) and others came out publicly after retiring — and Michael Sam made history in 2014 as the first openly gay player to be drafted — Nassib is the first active NFL player to do so, a milestone for which many in the LGBTQ community have been waiting decades.
And 28-year-old Nassib did it on his own terms.
“What’s up people,” the defensive lineman posted in a video message on his personal Instagram. “I’m at my house in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I 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 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.
“I’m a pretty private person so I hope you guys know that I’m not doing this for attention. 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.”
Kopay made history in 1975 when, after almost 10 years as an NFL running back, he told a newspaper reporter: “I’m gay.” The vitriolic reaction was swift: The PR director for the Minnesota Twins railed: “Your colossal gall in attempting to extend your perversions to an area of total manhood is simply unthinkable.”
In 2015, after not making the team, Michael Sam met Kopay and told Esquire: “The man is still strong. When he shook my hand, he almost broke it. He asked me why I was coming out, and I told him it was because of my boyfriend. ‘Do you love him?’ he asked. I said, ‘Yeah, I love him a lot.’ And he said, ‘Good, remember that love between you and him, it’s going to help you through the process.’ And I do, because it was a difficult process to bear.”