I feel the worst for Carl Nassib following Jon Gruden’s emails.
Less than four months ago, Nassib made the choice to go gay, the only current NFL player to do so. He did it in the very team that Gruden coached. And he chose to do so during Pride Month, our community’s celebration of who we are and our unity.
Still, I can only imagine how lonely Nassib has been this week.
Today, he asked to be absent from the team, less than two days after Gruden’s horrific comments became public.
When Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said today that Nassib “is an openly gay community” in the NFL, he was not far off. There are some great players who have come out before him, but hardly any of them know how he feels.
I can only imagine the onslaught of requests Nassib received to talk about Gruden’s insults. “The gay player for the anti-gay coach.” For the media, it writes itself.
Still, the last person I would try to contact right now is Nassib. The emotional toll of going out and reading reports from your head coach calling the NFL commissioner a “queer” and Michael Sam a “queer” must be tough.
This is something none of us know. We don’t understand it.
And Nassib has been clear: he just wants to play football.
I wish I could give Nassib a hug. And listen to him and talk to him. Help him.
And I wish I could talk to all the LGBTQ players in the NFL, help them find a way to join Nassib as a public player.
It is not a community of one. But it must feel like this.
It is not easy to overcome the barrier of coming out. It was not easy for Nassib. There are so many fearful reactions from the family, the players, the fans. No matter how many Dave Kopay and Carl Nassib came before them, the fear is real.
Gruden’s own words make it even more difficult.
Still, I hope all other LGBTQ people in football can see what we saw at Outsports, that people are generally good. That they usually want the best for their teammates or the athletes of their favorite team. That parents generally want their children to be happy and successful. And that there is a wonderful and diverse LGBTQ community to support it all.
I hope they all take heart in the way the NFL has responded to Gruden’s once-private comments. Other than a few “that was 10 years ago” comments on Twitter, I saw no defense of what he said and his choice of words. Neither players, nor fans, nor coaches, nor anyone.
Yet none of this is helping Nassib yet.
A community of one. I take comfort in knowing that he has a boyfriend, someone who can hopefully listen to him and help him through this difficult time.
I am looking for hope in some of his teammates, who have expressed their pride in him. And I hope that Mark Davis, the owner of the team, reaches out and offers two ears to listen. Davis’s family built their reputation on values of inclusion and diversity, and there are probably few people in the NFL more equipped to listen than the owner of the Nassib team.
Coming out was one of the hardest things I have ever done. To go out publicly? As an NFL player? I can’t imagine the fear they have to overcome.
Yet it was also the best decision I made in my life. We hear the same from our athletes everywhere. Nassib himself spoke of the absolute joy he felt in being himself. And if you’ve watched, he even plays better.
As football players step out to high schools and colleges across America, I increasingly hope gay and bi players in the NFL will do the same. They’re over there. I know they are.
And if they’re not ready to go out publicly, hopefully they will contact Nassib or the Raiders. Give this courageous young man the feeling that he is not alone. Let him know there are others like him playing in the league.
Even though he feels lonely right now, Nassib isn’t. And it’s our job to make sure he feels that sense of community.