June 23, 2021

Carl Nassib Is The First Openly Gay Active Player In NFL History

Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders is only the 16th known homosexual or bisexual player in the  101-year history of the National Football League (out of more than 26,600 players). He is the first active player to do so. 

There have been hundreds of others, of course, but we don't know who they were (or are) because of the pressure to conform and the intense stigma of not being heterosexual. As Slate's David Kamp writes:
The NFL remains the most hierarchical and militaristic of all the major U.S. sports leagues. . . . The league dedicates three weeks of every season to a military-appreciation campaign known as Salute to Service, in which the teams' coaching staffs roam the sidelines in NFL-issued camouflage and Army-green apparel. And for years, the Department of Defense paid the league millions of taxpayers' dollars to promote the U.S. armed forces. Like the military, the league's predominant culture has long been one that valorizes obedience to superiors and conformity over self-expression. The worst thing a player can do in this culture is express his individuality in such a way as to become a "distraction" to the team.

One former NFL player who can likely identify with Kopay's sense of exile is Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers quarterback was upheld in his early playing years as an inspirational model of moxie, an adopted kid who emerged from a lesser college program and led his team to two consecutive NFC Championship appearances, reaching the Super Bowl once. That all changed in 2016, when he began his custom of kneeling during the national anthem as a silent protest against police brutality. Like Kopay, Kaepernick was effectively excommunicated from the league for not being a good soldier.
Kopay is Dave Kopay, the former NFL player who told the Washington Examiner in 1975 that he was gay. His announcement came three years after his career was over. 

In his announcement this past Monday, Nassib also said he was donating $100,000 to The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization that focuses on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning young people under age 25.

Nassib, a 28-year-old defensive lineman, has been playing for five seasons.

My only disappointment with this news is that, out of the four major sports in North America, it was a football player who exhibited this bravery and not a baseball player. However, with any luck, Nassib's example will act as a catalyst for others.


PK said...

I appreciate that you wrote Nassib is “ The First Openly Gay Active Player” which makes a lot more sense than SC writing “Nassib becomes first actively gay NFL player”.

allan said...

I used that picture precisely because it's so awkward -- and amusing. Sure, there were gay players before, but this guy ... he's ACTIVELY gay!!

laura k said...

This is an incredible milestone. I can't wait til it happens in MLB!

(Actively gay?! WTF? Is that like the opposite of celibate?)