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Raiders' Carl Nassib, former Big Ten defensive player of year, comes out as gay

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Carl Nassib, a one-time Big Ten defensive player of the year at Penn State who now is a defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, has become the first active NFL player to come out as gay.

Nassib made the announcement on Instagram on Monday, in the middle of Pride Month.

Carl Nassib, of the Las Vegas Raiders, came out as gay Monday.

"I've been meaning to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest," Nassib, 28, said in the post.

"I really have the best life, I've got the best family, friends and job a guy could ask for."

Nassib called himself a "private person," and said, "I'm really not doing this for attention."

"I just think representation and visibility are so important," Nassib said. "I actually hope that one day, videos like this and the whole coming-out process are just not necessary.

"But until then, I'm gonna do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that's accepting and that's compassionate."

In announcing he's gay, Nassib also pledged $100,000 to The Trevor Project, which raises suicide awareness and works for suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth.

"They're truly doing incredible things," Nassib said.

Nassib joined the Raiders last season, signing a three-year, $25 million contract. He appeared in 14 games (five starts), and tallied 2.5 sacks.

The Raiders posted on Twitter on Monday, "Proud of you, Carl."

Nassib previously played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns, who drafted him in the third round in 2016.

At Penn State, the West Chester, Pennsylvania, native began his career as a walk-on, eventually becoming a starter and an All-American his senior year, when he recorded 10 sacks through his first 10 games.

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In addition to being Big Ten defensive player of the year in 2015, he won the Hendricks Award (nation's top defensive end) and the Lombardi Award (nation's best lineman or linebacker).

"It's 2021," Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN on Monday night. "All the more power to Carl. It doesn't change my opinion of him as a person or as a Raider."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Monday night: "The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth today. Representation matters. We share his hope that someday soon statements like his will no longer be newsworthy as we march toward full equality for the LGBTQ+ community. We wish Carl the best of luck this coming season."

Penn State and the Big Ten both expressed their support for Nassib on Twitter.

There's been a major push for LGBTQ+ visibility in sports in recent years, with many pro teams, particularly in MLB, the NHL and the NBA, holding Pride Nights, including the Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons. This month, major golf champion Collin Morikawa has used a rainbow-colored yardage book, plenty visible on TV.

But few professional athletes, particularly in men's team sports, have come out as LGBTQ+. And during their playing careers, it's especially rare.

In 2014, Missouri All-American defensive end Michael Sam came out as gay before the NFL Draft, and was taken in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams. He spent time on their practice squad, as well as the practice squad for the Dallas Cowboys, but never played a regular-season game. In 2015, Sam became the first openly gay player to play in the Canadian Football League. Former NFL offensive tackle Ryan O'Callaghan came out in 2017, after his career had ended.

Other openly gay professional athletes in major men's United States sports have included the NBA's Jason Collins and Major League Soccer's Robbie Rogers.

In 2015, Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy came out, a year after taking silver at the Sochi Games.

More: 'Progress is progress': The News' Tony Paul sounds off on LGBTQ+ issues in sports roundtable

Twitter: @tonypaul1984