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Raiders' Carl Nassib Is The First Active NFL Player To Come Out As Gay

NOEL KING, HOST:

When 28-year-old Carl Nassib came out on Instagram, he made history.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARL NASSIB: What's up, people? I'm Carl Nassib. I'm at my house here in West Chester, Pa. I just want to take a quick moment to say that I'm gay. I've been meaning to do this for a while now. But I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest.

KING: Nassib is a defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, meaning he's still playing the game, making him the first active NFL player to come out publicly. With me now is Jim Buzinski, the co-founder of outsports.com. Good morning, Jim.

JIM BUZINSKI: Good morning.

KING: How big a deal is this?

BUZINSKI: It's momentous. It's the first openly gay active NFL player, and the league's been around for more than a hundred years.

KING: What did you think of the Instagram video when you saw it? What went through your mind?

BUZINSKI: Well, I first noticed that when he first said I'm gay, a smile kind of cracked on his face, and so that told me this guy is relaxed. He's confident. He finally got something off his chest he's been probably wanting to say publicly forever. And it made a huge statement. I think the fact that he used his social media was a way to do it unfiltered. There wasn't a publicist. There wasn't a coordinated media campaign. He just looked like he was in his backyard recording, you know, a video for his friends. And so I thought that that really gave it really power.

KING: What's been the response so far from maybe the most important people in his professional life, his coaches and his teammates?

BUZINSKI: It's been overwhelmingly positive. The owner of the team, Mark Davis, said he did not know initially that Carl was gay, but also because of COVID, the owner hadn't been around the team as much last year. But the - his teammates and coaches had already known because he actually credited them with helping him come out by their acceptance. And they were nothing but positive. So that's another really great thing about it. He's an established player, and so it's not a matter of, is he going to be drafted, like we had with Michael Sam in 2014. He's on the team. He's had 20 1/2 sacks in his NFL career, which is pretty good. And so the acceptance has been overwhelming and universal, including from the commissioner, Roger Goodell.

KING: And I imagine you've been keeping an eye as well on what fans are saying about this. What's the reaction in the community of people who are fans of the Raiders and of this guy?

BUZINSKI: It's been overwhelmingly positive. The few negatives have been kind of drowned out by people saying, congratulations, you're living your own truth. They're excited. I know a bisexual high school football player who's actually going to be telling his coming-out story on Outsports. And he's a big Denver Broncos fan, who are the - a big enemy of the Raiders, and now - he even cheered it on.

KING: (Laughter).

BUZINSKI: So the reaction has just been just fantastic. And I think it shows that society is ready for this.

KING: And you alluded to this - Carl Nassib may be the first active player to come out, but there have been other gay players in the NFL before, right? They've just usually announced it after they've retired.

BUZINSKI: Correct. There have been 15 that have either been in a training camp or on an NFL roster, but none of them were out while they played, except for Michael Sam, who came out prior to the draft in 2014. But he never made the team, so he never played, actually, in an NFL game. So the first person to come out was David Kopay, who was a nine-year veteran with several teams. He came out in 1975, a year after retiring. And I talked to him today. He still lives in Southern California. He was just ecstatic that, you know, basically, why did it take so long?

But the fact is that these guys were trailblazers. But Carl will be the first person you'll be able to watch on television during a game and say, hey, that player is gay. And that means so much to, you know, every young LGBTQ athlete, whether they play football or another sport, who can now say, I can do this; you know, if he can do it, I can do it. Sports are more accepting. Even though there are certainly a lot of problems still with homophobia in sports, we've come a long way. And the reaction to Carl coming out kind of shows that. It's - in many ways, it's going to be, like, a one- or two-day story because there's not much more to say about it. He's gay, so what are you going to do with that other than applaud him?

KING: Jim Buzinski, the co-founder of outsports.com. Thank you for taking the time today, Jim. We really appreciate it.

BUZINSKI: Well, thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.