West Chester’s Carl Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out

Carl Nassib came out in a June 22 Instagram post. (Photo: Instagram screenshot)

West Chester native Carl Nassib’s coming out this week has been applauded by both the LGBTQ community as well as the NFL. His June 22 video on Instagram, which begins, “I just wanted to take a quick moment and say that I’m gay,” made history; as a defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, he is the first openly gay active player in the league. 

Nassib, who describes himself in the video as “a private person,” did not have a press conference, and he did not grant PGN’s request for an interview. However, that all may be to his credit. The athlete made his announcement and really does not need to discuss his sexuality further. His teammates and coaches were likely aware of Nassib’s decision to come out — their support was acknowledged in Nassib’s remarks — be he avoided the media blitz and planning that many such announcements have had. 

The reactions have been almost uniformly positive. The NFL matched Nassib’s $100,000 donation to the Trevor Project, the organization that focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth. Amit Paley, CEO & Executive Director of The Trevor Project, was grateful, and issued a statement, “We hope that Carl’s historic representation in the NFL will inspire young LGBTQ athletes across the country to live their truth and pursue their dreams.” 

“At a time when state lawmakers are actively trying to restrict transgender and nonbinary youth’s participation in school sports, this news should serve as a clarion call for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the locker room and on the field.”

Moreover, Nassib’s jersey has been a top-seller since his announcement. Locally and nationally, the athlete has generated tremendous public support. 

“It’s momentous,” said Jim Buzinski, co-founder of Outsports.com, in a recent phone interview. Buzinski, who broke the story on the website, continued, “It helps destroy the myth that gay men are not macho enough to play sports like football, or that a sport like football would not be accepting. He’s been accepted by everybody. It’s just fantastic news.”

Buzinski also thinks that the response to Nassib’s coming out shows how much progress we have made. “You are not hearing anything negative because the people who would want to say something negative have been shamed into knowing that’s not right.”

Chris Scott Jr., Commissioner of the Greater Philadelphia Flag Football League, expressed his joy at the news in a recent interview. “I think it’s really important that it’s an active player. When Jason Collins came out, he was close to retiring. This is right on time. I think the biggest thing is, as Nassib said in his video, this idea of representation. How often are we looking for someone to do the thing that we want to do?

“[Being] gay is becoming more and more acceptable, especially with people like Michael Sam, or the way Dwyane Wade embraced his [trans] daughter. More conversations are being held, and more people are comfortable because they see the community is gaining support.”

Scott further acknowledged that such an announcement would have inspired him when he was a youth. “It would have made me more comfortable, sooner, if I knew the reaction wouldn’t be so visceral and so nasty.”

Ron Algeo, Assistant Head of School for Student Leadership at Malvern Prep, where Nassib went to school, was also pleased with his former student’s video. “It was really well done,” he said in a phone interview. “We are so incredibly proud of him. His courage, his bravery and his leadership,” 

Algeo worked with Nassib at Malvern as the head of the middle and upper schools, and in the Malvern retreat program, known as MECO. “He was one of the senior leaders, and I was on a retreat with him when he was in a leadership role. I got to see how passionate he was about reaching out and helping others when they are down. He’s such a great man with a big, big heart. He’s a super-humble guy.”

James Franklin, Head Coach at Penn State Football, Nassib’s other alma mater, concurred. Franklin issued a statement that read, “I am very proud of Carl for his courage and voice. 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… Carl’s brave announcement will forge a path for others to be true to their authentic self. I was proud of Carl when he led the nation in sacks, but I’m even more proud of him now.”

As for Nassib’s efforts on the field, Buzinski noted that, “Because they are liberated” all gay players say they perform better once they are out. “He is going to be judged on the field on how he performs, but he’s been accepted in the locker room, so that won’t be an issue. Sexuality won’t matter once the whistle blows and the play starts. Can he sack the quarterback, or can he tackle the runner? That’s what he’s going to be judged on and that’s what he should be judged on.”

We will see how Nassib fares when the NFL season starts this fall, but right now, he is a hometown hero and the league’s MVP.