For decades, we have heard that any NFL player who came out as openly gay would be a distraction to his team given the media and fan attention, seemingly endorsing the view that players should stay closeted. Carl Nassib, a defensive lineman for the Las Vegas Raiders, is testing this theory in 2021 after he came out publicly in June.
Week 2 (Sept. 19): Raiders 26, at Steelers 17
Nassib was limited with an injured pectoral muscle and recorded one tackle. The touchdown-underdog Raiders went on the road and upset Pittsburgh to go to 2-0. Distraction meter (0-10, 10 being highest): 0
Quotable: When Nassib came out, one of his biggest supporters was Zach Banner, a Steelers offensive lineman who played with Nassib when both were on the Cleveland Browns.
“Before he even came out, you know he’s not only a good person but a great teammate,” Banner said. “I empathize for not only the gay community but the LGBTQ+ community and everything that really falls underneath the category of someone’s sexuality. In no way or form have I ever discriminated against something like that. I’m not built like that. Honestly, sometimes I really don’t understand how you can hate somebody for who they love and what they do.
“If he was in my locker room, I would totally, completely support him, which a lot of his guys with the Raiders have,” Banner said. “They’ve done it publicly, and the reasons that that’s important is, some people get pissed off about it, but those are the same people that are kind of really holding us back. Their mindset and opinions are really irrelevant. It’s not so much just a support in Carl, but supporting kids like Carl who don’t have that outlet, who sometimes don’t have that support, who don’t have the financial means to be just fine with living their lifestyle regardless of what anybody cares about it. Who are bullied. Who are sometimes forced into suicide and to hurting themselves.”
Carl Nassib with his teammates against the Baltimore Ravens.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Week 1 (Sept. 13): at Raiders 33, at Steelers 27 (OT)
Nassib was a star in his first game as an openly gay player, recording three tackles and a sack/forced fumble in a wild overtime to set up the Raiders’ game-winning score and go 1-0. Distraction meter: 0.
Quotable: “A lot of firsts today,” Nassib said after the game. “I was really taking it in as much as I could… I’ve played in a lot of games… and I won’t forget this one.”