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NFL defensive end Carl Nassib instantly made LGBTQ history when he came out as gay last June, cementing his legacy as the first openly gay active NFL player in the league’s nearly 102-year history.
After nearly four years as a professional football player, Nassib, now 29, announced that he is gay in a viral video on Instagram that accrued over 767,000 likes.
“I actually hope that one day videos like this and the whole coming out process are just not necessary, but until then, I am going to do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that is accepting, that is compassionate,” Nassib said at the time.
Nassib, who declined an interview, has seldom spoken publicly about his sexuality. But in a rare sit-down with Blue Wire’s “Comeback Stories” podcast, the only interview he has given since he came out last year, Nassib said his decision was rooted in wanting to boost LGBTQ visibility.
“I didn’t really do it to break barriers,” he said. “I did it because I felt an obligation to the LGBTQ community to bring representation and bring visibility to a very, very popular entertainment business, to a very, very popular industry that doesn’t have a lot of representation.”
Nassib also told the podcast that being the only openly gay NFL player is “stressful.”
“I just want to normalize things,” he said. “I really don’t think too often going through life as a gay man. I just hope one day that won’t even have to cross your mind, because it barely crosses my mind. It was a big weight put on my shoulders, but now I think it’s slowly coming off.”
Only 16 gay or bisexual NFL players have come out publicly, including Nassib, according to the LGBTQ sports site Outsports. However, aside from Nassib, all of the NFL’s LGBTQ players — including “Bachelor” star Colton Underwood — came out after they left the sport.
Outsports founder Cyd Zeigler said there’s more to Nassib’s story than his coming out video.
Zeigler pointed to a game in September, Nassib’s first since he came out, in which he forced an overtime fumble that led his former team, the Las Vegas Raiders, to a thrilling 33-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
“It was one thing for him to come out, but then for him to be out and succeed in that first game and then for the team to go to the playoffs? That’s the real power of what happened,” Zeigler said. “The significance of all of that is that people are starting to see: ‘Huh. All these assumptions that we’ve had may not have been true.’”
In less than a year as an LGBTQ star, Nassib has helped raise money for LGBTQ causes.
When he came out on Instagram last June, Nassib also announced that he was donating $100,000 to The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide prevention organization. With last season’s My Cause My Cleats fundraiser, an annual NFL charity campaign in which players can custom-design their own cleats to raise awareness for nonprofit organizations of their choice, Nassib created rainbow cleats to spotlight The Trevor Project.
In February, Nassib was honored as an LGBTQ pioneer at the NFL Honors event, the prime-time television program on which the league’s individual awards are revealed.
The Raiders cut Nassib in March for financial reasons, NFL.com reported, saving them nearly $8 million in salary costs. He is expected to sign with a different team this season.