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Raiders’ Carl Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

Carl Nassib has played for the Raiders, Buccaneers, and Browns over the course of his career.
Carl Nassib has played for the Raiders, Buccaneers, and Browns over the course of his career.John Locher/Associated Press

Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to announce that he is gay, information that he shared on social media Monday.

“I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay,” Nassib said in a video posted to his Instagram account. “I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but finally feel comfortable getting it off my chest. I really have the best life, the best family, friends and job a guy can ask for.

“I’m a pretty private person, so I hope you guys know that I’m not doing this for attention. I just think that representation and visibility are so important. I actually hope that one day, videos like this and the whole coming out process are not necessary.”

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Nassib also announced that he wanted to do his part “to cultivate a culture that’s accepting and compassionate” and would start by donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit that works to prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth in the United States.

Nassib, 6 feet 7 inches and 275 pounds, has been in the league five seasons, and has 20.5 career sacks. Last year with the Raiders, he played in 14 games and finished with 2.5 sacks.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued the following statement Monday evening: “The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth today. Representation matters. We share his hope that someday soon statement 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.”

In the NFL’s history, no out gay player has appeared in a regular-season game.

Last year with the Raiders, Carl Nassib played in 14 games and finished with 2.5 sacks
Last year with the Raiders, Carl Nassib played in 14 games and finished with 2.5 sacksJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

Missouri defensive end Michael Sam came out as gay ahead of the 2014 draft; he was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the final round but was released before he appeared in a regular-season game.

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In 2017, Ryan O’Callaghan — who was drafted by the Patriots in 2006 and played two seasons in New England — came out as gay after his career ended.

“No one is going to assume the big football player is gay,” he told OutSports at the time. “It’s why a football team is such a good place to hide.”

O’Callaghan acknowledged his struggles as he remained closeted while playing in the NFL, saying that his wish to uphold a certain image conflicted with how he felt internally. He considered suicide and struggled with addiction before coming out — a decision that would help save his life, he wrote in a book published in 2019.

Last year, O’Callaghan told the Globe that he didn’t think the NFL itself was making it more difficult for athletes to come out as gay, “but the NFL definitely could be doing more.”

O’Callaghan is one of nine former NFL players who have come out as gay after their careers, according to the publication Outsports. He is the only former Patriot.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the NFL, O’Callaghan said it was only a matter of time that an active player would come out.

“Sooner or later, there will be an openly gay player in the NFL,” he said. “It’s going to take someone with a lot of courage.”

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On Monday, Nassib became the first.

Information from previous Globe stories was used in this report.


Christopher Price can be reached at christopher.price@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe. Katie McInerney can be reached at katie.mcinerney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @k8tmac.