Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib, the first openly gay active player in the NFL, said Friday that the reaction has been “incredible” in his first public comments since his announcement on Instagram on June 21.
Nassib, 28, talked about how much better he feels on the field since the announcement, the reception he received from Raiders teammates upon his arrival at training camp and how he hopes his announcement has helped others.
“First couple of days, being ‘out,’ the only ‘out’ player, my body felt like Jell-O. I was very anxious,” he said. “But now, I just wanted to get this [media conference] over with, wanted to move on, just have a lot of clarity. I feel better today. I feel better than I did yesterday and the day before that. So, I’m looking forward to the future.
“I was definitely surprised by the big reaction. It was incredible. I thought nobody would care. But it was just such a good feeling to have all that support. I was glad to do my part to help bring visibility and representation to my community.”
Nassib, a third-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2016 out of Penn State who has also played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, signed a three-year, $25 million free-agent contract with the Raiders in March 2020. He had 2.5 sacks, tying a career low, in 14 games with five starts last season. He also had an interception and five passes defensed. The Raiders revamped the defensive end group this offseason, signing Yannick Ngakoue in free agency and drafting Malcolm Koonce to go with Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell and Nassib.
His announcement sent shockwaves through the NFL, though Nassib said “very few players around the league knew.” Nassib also said he went to Raiders coaches before the announcement “to give them the chance to kind of digest [and] help me in the process.”
At the time, Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN, “It’s 2021. All the more power to Carl. It doesn’t change my opinion of him as a person or as a Raider.”
Coach Jon Gruden also told ESPN, “I learned a long time ago what makes a man different is what makes him great.”
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said this week Nassib was treated no differently.
“His locker is just a few down from mine, and I just want to make sure that he knows that, man, we just want him to play as hard as he can so we can win a Super Bowl,” Carr said. “That’s what we’re here to do.
“Whether someone agrees or disagrees with what he does on or off the field, that’s everybody’s opinion and leave it like that. But we’re still a family when we come in this building. We better treat him like such. And so, from my point of view, it’s been good. But I don’t know if Carl would say the same. I don’t know. But from what I’ve seen, it’s been good.”
Nassib said the reception has been “great” in the locker room.
“I knew it was going to be good,” Nassib said. “I had zero stress about that. Absolutely no worries about that. Great locker room. Great teammates. I’ve been met with nothing but love and support. It’s been incredible. Football players get a bad rap, but we’re humble, hardworking, accepting people, and this is a great example of that.”
When Nassib made his announcement, he pledged a $100,000 donation to the Trevor Project, and on Thursday he thanked both the NFL and the Raiders for supporting him.
“It is a lot bigger than I am,” he said. “Totally cognizant of that, so I’m glad that the Trevor Project got so much love and support through just a 60-second video. … I hope that I helped people.
“It was definitely stressful, growing up and being in the closet and doing all that. Very stressful for anybody. I can speak from experience. But yeah, it’s been a great weight off my shoulders. I’ve been ‘out’ to my family and friends for years, to this point, so it’s been good to not have to lie when I come to work every day. It’s been good.”
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