Carl Nassib in June 2021 made history as the first openly gay NFL player. His announcement, made via an Instagram post, was met with widespread praise and support, not only by his Raiders teammates, but also the NFL and many neutral observers outside the league.
But the former Raiders defensive end — he was released by Las Vegas in the spring and has not signed with another NFL team — told “Good Morning America” co-host Michael Strahan in an interview airing Tuesday that he “agonized” over the decision, important as it was to make. Ultimately, he decided to set himself as a public example for others and to steer public discourse about sexual orientation in a positive direction.
“I stared at the phone for, like, an hour just looking at it, trying to hype myself up,” he told Strahan (via ABC News). “The last thing I said was like, ‘You know what — for the kids.’ And pressed post.”
That said, Nassib also wanted to ensure he controlled his own narrative.
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“I came out to my close friends and family years ago. And I wanted to do it publicly because I wanted to stay ahead of the narrative,” he said. “I just wanted to own the story and make sure I did it on my terms. One of my biggest fears was that I would only be remembered for being gay.”
At the time he came out, Nassib announced a $100,000 donation to The Trevor Project, an organization focused on suicide prevention and support for the LGBTQ community. His donation prompted the NFL to match it, as well as myriad anonymous messages to the Trevor Project thanking Nassib for his decision.
While Nassib was grateful for the support he received and the positivity he generated, he said he hopes for such announcements to longer be necessary.
“(I) actually hope that one day videos like this and the whole coming-out process are just not necessary,” he said. “When people come out, they’re coming out of the closet because they’re afraid. They have fear that they’re gonna have negative impact on their life, on their relationships, on their job.
“I just hoped that one day we don’t have those fears -— that’s the society I hope for one day. And I hope I can be a positive push in that direction.”
Nassib said he had “some difficult times” over the last 15 years as to whether to come out as gay. To that end, he offered support and encouragement to LGBTQ youths who might see their sexuality portrayed in a negative light (such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation in primary school).
“They have support from a massive community of people who will love them no matter what, and we are making strides in a positive direction,” he said. “It won’t be a perfect road, and we just have to continue the course and make sure that we do it from a place of love and not from a place of animosity.”