Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib on Monday became the first active NFL player to come out as gay.
Mr. Nassib, who is entering his sixth NFL season and second with the Raiders, announced the news on Instagram, saying he wasn’t doing it for the attention but because he felt representation and visibility were important.
“I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay,” Mr. Nassib said in his video message from his home in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest.”
“I really have the best life. I got 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 really not doing this for attention. I just think that representation and visibility are so important.”
Mr. Nassib added in a written message that followed the video that he “agonized over this moment for the last 15 years” and only recently decided to go public with his sexuality after receiving the support of family and friends.
“I am also incredibly thankful for the NFL, my coaches, and fellow players for their support,” Mr. 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.”
Mr. Nassib, whose announcement came during Pride Month, added that he was donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit that seeks to prevent suicides among LGBTQ youth.
“The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth today,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Representation matters. 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. We wish Carl the best of luck this coming season.”
Mr. Nassib’s announcement also was greeted by Brian Burke, president of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Mr. Burke has been a major proponent of LGBTQ rights for more than a decade since his late son Brendan came out as gay.
“Proud to support Carl and his decision to come out as the first active gay player in the NFL,” Mr. Burke said. “I hope other sports executives will join me in publicly expressing their support as well.”
The Raiders showed their support, writing, “Proud of you, Carl,” on their repost of Mr. Nassib’s message on Twitter and adding a black heart emoji.
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, tweeted: “Our union supports Carl 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.”
Penn State coach James Franklin said he and his wife Fumi were inspired by Mr. Nassib’s announcement to donate $100,000 to the Trevor Project.
“I am very proud of Carl for his courage and voice,” Mr. Franklin said. “This announcement doesn’t surprise me because if you know Carl, you know his strength. Carl’s story continues to add chapters which will have an impact well beyond the field of play.”
Mr. Nassib led the nation with 15-and-a-half sacks in 2015, Mr. Franklin’s second season in State College, and he was a cornerstone of the program’s path back to contention.
“Carl’s brave announcement will forge a path for others to be true to their authentic self,” Mr. Franklin added. “I was proud of Carl when he led the nation in sacks, but I’m even more proud of him now.”
Former All-Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman commended Mr. Nassib and suggested teammates and opponents won’t have a problem with his announcement.
“Congrats to Carl Nassib on coming out that’s a big step, I think that most players are concerned if you can play or not,” Mr. Merriman tweeted.
In a post saying he was proud of Mr. Nassib, Hall of Famer Warren Moon said he played with several gay football players in a storied pro career that spanned from 1978 to 2000 but none were “comfortable enough to go public.”
“They were great teammates, & obviously very talented. As long as they helped us win and were great teammates, their sexual preference was never [an] issue,” Mr. Moon wrote. “We live in a different time now where diversity is much more accepted. Cheers Carl, and I hope this lets other athletes know, its OK to say who you are….”
Added fellow Nittany Lions alum and Giants running back Saquon Barkley, “Much respect brudda.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, a leading LGBTQ advocacy organization, called Mr. Nassib’s “powerful coming out is a historic reflection of the growing state of LGBTQ visibility and inclusion in the world of professional sports, which has been driven by a long list of brave LGBTQ athletes who came before him.”
Ms. Ellis said Mr. Nassib’s story “will not only have a profound impact on the future of LGBTQ visibility and acceptance in sports, but sends a strong message to so many LGBTQ people, especially youth, that they too can one day grow up to be and succeed as a professional athlete like him.”
More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over.
Former University of Missouri defensive star Michael Sam was the first openly gay football player ever selected in the NFL draft, going in the seventh round to the then-St. Louis Rams in 2014. But he never made the final roster and retired in 2015 having never played in an NFL regular-season game.
Mr. Nassib is a sixth-year pro who was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2016 in the third round (65th overall) out of Penn State. He played two seasons for the Browns and two for Tampa Bay before joining the Raiders in 2020. He has 20-and-a-half sacks in 73 career games.
This story was reported by The Associated Press.