The NFL says 'football is gay.' And we say the NFL got this absolutely right
The NFL got something right. It's weird to type that, but it's true.
The NFL got something right.
Without there being public backlash. Not in response to some really negative attention. Without weeks or months passing.
The league just ... got it right.
On Monday, the NFL — which changed its vaunted shield avatar on Twitter to rainbow colors at the start of June to recognize Pride month — actually showed that the colorful logo wasn't just pandering.
Thanks to the bravery of Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib, who last week told the world via Instagram that he is gay, the NFL was presented with the chance to do the right thing.
And it did. My world has temporarily been thrown off its axis.
The NFL released a video, a public-service announcement of sorts, in which it announced "football is gay."
And lesbian. And beautiful. And queer. And transgender.
It is an impactful video.
When I saw Nassib's announcement, I thought of the countless numbers of boys and young men who play football and who know they are gay but are terrified to have anyone realize it because of the über-macho (read: toxic) culture the sport has fostered for so long. Yes, they may know about Ryan O'Callaghan and Wade Davis and Michael Sam, but O'Callaghan and Davis didn't speak their truth until after they'd retired, and while Sam's decision to reveal his sexuality before the draft was historic, at least two former teammates who were with him with the Rams have said Sam just wasn't that good, so he didn't stick long in the league.
Nassib isn't a superstar, but he's no slouch either, with 15 sacks over the past three seasons as a part-time starter for the Buccaneers and Las Vegas. The bulk of those came with Tampa Bay, but in fairness to Nassib, not many Raiders were getting sacks last season (only 18 as a team).
Seeing him share his truth with the world, in the most nonchalant way, had to have been such a relief for so many of those young players.
What's also important is the reaction. Nassib's teammates have been muted on social media, which doesn't seem great and hopefully doesn't portend problems once the team gathers for training camp next month.
Quarterback Derek Carr did tell reporters via text last week that he contacted Nassib privately to express support, but Carr hasn't said anything publicly via his verified Twitter or Instagram accounts.
"I have often said I love my teammates. I mean it. We always say we are a family in that Raider locker room, and we mean that too. I want to win a championship here with Carl and the rest of our teammates," Carr told reporters.
Is that expecting too much? Possibly. But the reality is that Carr, who's the face of the franchise, as well as Raiders brass and the NFL are the ones who set the tone for how Nassib will be received by fans.
There will, of course, be those who won't accept Nassib because of how he was born, but if Carr, his team and the league make it crystal clear that Nassib is supported, it would go a long way toward others doing the same. And it would show those countless boys and young men who are closeted and want to keeping playing football that they will be supported, too.
That's why the NFL's video is so critical and can be so impactful.
On another day, we'll discuss why it was seemingly easy for the league to say it supports the LGBTQ+ community, but had to be dragged kicking and screaming to show support for Black lives, when roughly 70 percent of its players are Black.
For today, we'll give kudos.
You did the right thing, NFL.
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