NFL

Carl Nassib announcement 'a monumental moment' for NFL, says Ryan Russell

By Sports Desk June 23, 2021

Carl Nassib becoming the first active NFL player to come out as gay is a "historical, monumental moment ", according to Ryan Russell. 

Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Nassib made the announcement via social media in an Instagram post on Monday.

Prior to Nassib making NFL history, Russell had come out as bisexual in 2019 when he was a free agent, while Michael Sam became the first gay player to be drafted in 2014, though he never went on to play a regular season game.

Russell was delighted to see the video from Nassib and has been heartened by the positive reception it has received.

"My initial reaction to Carl's video was just one of celebration and elation," he told Stats Perform.

"[Celebration] not just for him in his own journey and self-love and wellbeing but also for the NFL, and for male professional sports at large because right now actively on a team in the four major sports here in the US, there's no one like him. 

"So a very historical, monumental moment for him and for male professional sports, and also for all the young LGBTQ+ youth and athletes looking up to him now.

"They will be seeing him as representation and seeing themselves having success in the highest field of American football through Carl."
 
Asked how big a step this was, Russell added: "Huge. Like I said, it's a historical landmark, really.

"As our small little LGBTQ+, male professional athlete family grows, we've really been chipping away at this for some time. 

"Ryan O'Callaghan coming out when he was retired, Michael Sam coming out, and being the first openly gay male athlete to be drafted into the NFL, myself coming out as a free agent in the midst of an active career, now Carl coming out while on a roster.

"And I am 100 per cent confident that he will be playing in that first game this season – that will be another huge landmark for him. 

"So this is monumental really for all of us, and especially for him, and for the NFL as well to be on the right side of history, and to show that it is an encouraging and inclusive place for all athletes to succeed and be themselves."

 

Nassib joined the Raiders on a three-year, $25million free-agent deal in 2020, with the 28-year-old having 2.5 sacks and an interception in 14 games – five starts – last season.

He was drafted in the third round by the Cleveland Browns in 2016 and was a popular figure on the documentary 'Hard Knocks' before moving on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018.

Russell, who also played for the Bucs as well as the Dallas Cowboys, believes the days where athletes opt to stay quiet about their sexuality are coming to an end.

He continued: "I think a lot of those things are being taken away in terms of worrying about job security or in terms of being viewed as a distraction in sports. 

"Also the world is changing a lot of ways, the world at large, and people at large, are becoming more accepting - our communities are becoming more diverse.

"So I think it's a mixture of kind of like debunking myths, that we really had no evidence to base it off of, as well as just changing and progressing as a society. Those two things come together to make players feel comfortable. 

"And also, I mean, a credible thing to note, as Carl seemed very relaxed, very nonchalant in his message.

"It didn't seem like it was this big, massive sort of thing that he was fearing would rock his whole world, it was him wanting to come out.

"He wanted to be just his full self, and to also be an visible representation for those who a lot of times have not seen themselves in this league at this level."

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