Earlier this week, I told the story of Ryan O’Callaghan. He was a gay man who played several season in the NFL for multiple teams, but kept it a secret the entire time. It was a painful struggle, one that nearly cost him his life. He never found the strength to come out during his career, but he still managed to come to terms with his sexuality and get the help he needed.
Years before that, Michael Sam became the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team. Even though he never made it onto an active 53-man roster, it was historic. It showed that, even in a sport as traditionally masculine as the NFL, there was room for the LGBTQ community.
This year, another story unfolded that made even more progress. Carl Nassib, a defensive end on the Las Vegas Raiders who has been on an active roster for 5 years, came out as gay. For that, we should congratulate him because he didn’t just come out. He used it as an opportunity to donate to The Trevor Project. It helped make a historic moment that much more meaningful.
As a lifelong fan of football, I think this is good for the sport. These players aren’t just top athletes. They’re human beings. They deserve to live their lives and their truth. I imagine it wasn’t easy for Mr. Nassib, just as it wasn’t easy for Ryan O’Callaghan. It’s also very likely that there are plenty of other closeted players in both the NFL and the NCAA. Hopefully, this moment will help inspire them to live their truth as well.
The fact that his jersey became a top seller after his announcement is just further proof that the world is ready for this. I would even argue the world needs this. It’ll make football season this year all the more enjoyable.