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Carl Nassib comes out as gay: a game changer for the NFL 

His announcement is praised by the league, the Raiders and fellow pros 

It was a historical moment for the National Football League (NFL) after Carl Nassib announced that he was gay. Nassib, who plays as a defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, is the first active NFL player to come out.

In a video post on Instagram, the 28-year-old said he had been “meaning to do this for a while now, but finally feel comfortable getting it off my chest”. Explaining that he was a private person and “was not doing this for attention”, Nassib hopes 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”. 

Nassib also announced that he would be donating $100,000 (£71,970) to the Trevor Project, an “incredible organisation, they’re the number one suicide-prevention service for LGBTQ youth in America”, he said. 

In a separate written message, he admitted that he had “agonised over this moment for the last 15 years”. He only recently decided to go public with his sexuality after receiving the support of family and friends, Associated Press reports. “I am also incredibly thankful for the NFL, my coaches, and fellow players for their support,” Nassib wrote. “I would not have been able to do this without them. From the jump I was greeted with the utmost respect and acceptance.”

‘We’re proud of you’

After coming out during Pride Month, the American footballer has been widely praised by the league, teams and fellow players. 

The Raiders, their owner Mark Davis and head coach Jon Gruden were among the first to show their support. “It’s 2021,” Davis told ESPN. “All the more power to Carl. It doesn’t change my opinion of him as a person or as a Raider.” 

Stating that “representation matters”, league commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL family was “proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth” and “we share his hope that someday soon statements like his will no longer be newsworthy as we march toward full equality for the LGBTQ+ community”. 

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, tweeted that the union supports Nassib and “his work with the Trevor Project is proof that he - like our membership - is about making his community and this world a better place not for themselves, but for others”.

Times are changing - slowly 

The Guardian says that it’s hardly a secret that gay players have always existed in the NFL, but a “fear of a backlash” from fans, teammates and their employers stopped them from doing so. “Now times appear to be slowly changing.”

It’s more than seven years since Michael Sam was selected by the Rams and became the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. Before Sam and since, NFL players have come out after their playing days, but none during them, said NFL.com’s Grant Gordon. “That all changed on Monday. Nassib’s announcement will go down as a historical one in the NFL and the world of sports, along with being a step forward in a path toward equality.”

Writing on NFL.com, columnist Judy Battista said that “with a nonchalance that belied the significance of the moment”, Nassib changed the NFL and challenged it, too. “It feels like Nassib will be what so many hoped Sam would be - the groundbreaker who, once this news cycle passes, will make us wonder what took so long,” she wrote. “The NFL may never be called progressive. But it made progress [on] Monday.”

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