One of the most important cultural milestones in the recent history of North American sports took place with grandeur and status as a shrug.
In the 102-year history of the NFL, no openly gay player had competed in a regular season game until September 13. Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib just like he did in every game of his six-year professional career, he took to the field.
Amidst the glamor of a Monday Night Football game, Nassib’s overpowering moment took a back seat at the opening ceremony of the Raiders’ new $2 billion pitch-black stadium to fans. The greatest recognition of Nassib’s success came from some of the officers who wore the number 94 jersey, not any other orchestral movement.
On Sunday, Nassib and his team will do it again as they play the Raiders Steelers, making a concerted effort to get what they’ve achieved and leaving it to others to discern and examine if there is any significant cultural change in the area. league.
Experts on diversity and inclusion in sports said that’s how it should be.
“I think it’s a very positive sign that it’s not distracting,” said Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. “This is a sign of how much this is accepted and not made a big fuss.”
On June 21, Nassib came out as gay, saying in a video he shared on his Instagram account that he had internalized his sexuality as a secret for 15 years. The one-minute video, shot outside his home in West Chester, Pa., sparked a flurry of congratulatory messages on social media, including NFL peers, celebrities, and President Biden. According to Fanatics, the league’s e-commerce partner, Nassib’s jersey became the top seller in the NFL within 24 hours.
Before Nassib, 15 players in league history were determined to be gay or bisexual. sport, a news website covering LGBTQ athletes and sports-related topics. But unlike Nassib, they either revealed their sexuality after their game days were over or they didn’t appear in the regular season game at all.
Before the season started, Nassib said he would donate $100,000 to the Trevor Project, a crisis response organization for LGBTQ youth. Amit Paley, executive director of the Trevor Project, said he contacted the organization about two months before the Instagram post to discuss a plan. In his speeches, Paley said that Nassib wanted to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues rather than just focusing the spotlight on himself.
Forty percent of over 60,000 LGBTQ youth in the 2020 Trevor Project questionnaire said they were considering suicide, and 68 percent of the participants had another questionnaire They do not participate in sports for their schools or community clubs for fear of discrimination, the organization said in a statement this month.
As Nassib’s post spread, traffic to the Trevor Project’s website increased by over 350 percent, and the organization had received at least $225,000 in committed donations by the end of that week.
“I really think Carl didn’t want this to be a big deal and hopefully it won’t be a big deal when someone comes out one day,” Paley said in an interview. “But it was very important to come out clearly and be the first in this way.”
A month later, when the training camp started, things calmed down. Nassib’s jersey is no longer at the top of league sales, but is in the top five for Raiders players, according to Fanatics.
He declined multiple interview requests and spoke publicly only once before the first game. Against the Baltimore Ravens, Nassib played 44 percent of his defensive hits in a rotational role and made three interceptions. In overtime, however, the Ravens clashed with quarterback Lamar Jackson for a sack, forcing it into a mess where the Raiders’ defenses rallied. crime scored a goal to win the game, 33-27, two games later.
Nassib is on the third team since being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2016. He ruled the country with 15.5 sacks He won the Lombardi Award as a senior at Penn State and as the nation’s best lineman. He said he tried to remember something from each match, but he especially enjoyed the Monday night win.
“It was really special,” Nassib said at a post-match press conference. “I’m really happy that we won the day we made some history.”
His teammates did not mention Nassib’s historic role in the win. Coach Jon Gruden only praised his performance on the field. Defensive side Maxx Crosby did as well, simply saying, “Carl is a ballerina and I’m proud of the man.”
ESPN, the network that broadcast the game, also elaborated on Nassib’s success. In the third quarter, he posted a 28-second video with clips of his Instagram video and a few photos. In an alternate broadcast on ESPN2 featuring retired NFL quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Eli Manning, former NBA player Charles Barkley guest appeared and wore Nassib’s jersey.
The indifferent tone of the news, in some ways, mimicked the reception of other male professional athletes who played their first game after their release. Former NBA player Jason Collins received a modest applause from a rival crowd when he entered a game. the game For the Nets in 2014, 10 months after he announced he was gay. But there was no other form of validation in the arena, and Collins and his teammates downplayed the moment to the news media.
Robbie Rogers, who was the first MLS player to appear in a game while being openly gay, said some things were felt.normalIn a typical atmosphere for a Los Angeles Galaxy game in 2013.
In August, Nassib said his teammates have supported him since he came out. The Raiders haven’t left any players open for comment, but quarterback Derek Carr, who says his locker is just a few spots away from Nassib, said he didn’t see anything to object to that during training camp.
“I just love to watch when he comes, and from my point of view no one has treated him differently,” Carr said.
Amy Trask, former CEO of Raiders, said this is in keeping with tradition for a team that has historically embraced diversity. Mexican-American Tom Flores, who became the NFL’s first female CEO in 1997, had two wins with the Raiders in the 1980 and 1983 seasons, becoming the first Latino coach to win a Super Bowl in the NFL. The team also named Eldridge Dickey, the first Black quarterback to be taken in the first round the Raiders played in the AFL in 1968.
Trask said he didn’t focus on the history he made on his first day or whether his colleagues would change their behavior towards him. No wonder how Nassib and the Raiders handled it last week.
Trask said in an interview, “This is an organization with a history of hiring regardless of race, gender or any other individuality and has nothing to do with whether someone can do a job.” Said. “The fact that Carl is a Raider is very, very special to me.
“He went out and did his job the way anyone would want any actor to do his job,” he added.
Wayne Mabry, arguably the most well-known fan of the Raiders, said that Nassib’s sexuality will not change his perspective on the actor if he continues to do his job well. Nicknamed “The Violator,” Mabry has attended nearly every Raiders home game for nearly 30 years dressed as a pirate with black-and-silver face paint, leather boots, and studded shoulder pads.
It was a tribute he said was inspired in part by the team’s colloquial reputation as the league’s “Bad Boys”. He said it was irrelevant for a gay player to historically be on a team with such a bold perception.
“Warriors come in all shapes and sizes,” said Mabry, 64. “It’s about what you bring to the table. He’s a warrior to me as long as he helps us win.”