Carl Nassib not only made history by playing in his first game while out as a NFL player, but the defensive end also made one of the most vital plays of the night towards the end of the game, helping to seal a victory for his team on primetime television. He knocked the ball out of his opponent’s hand in overtime to keep them from scoring.
Nassib, who is a nominee for this year’s LGBTQ Nation Heroes Award for Celebrity Who Made Us Proud, spoke after the game for one of only the few times since his coming out in June. He told reporters, “It was really special, I’m really happy that we got the win on the day that kind of made a little bit of history.”
Nassib plays for the Las Vegas Raiders, who hosted the Baltimore Ravens in their season opener.
In the first quarter, Nassib broke a rainbow barrier by becoming the first openly gay player to take a NFL field as an active player in the regular season. Despite that achievement, much of the focus was kept on Nassib’s abilities during the game, until he was spotlighted by the telecast in the third quarter of the game.
Carl Nassib became 1st active openly gay player in NFL tonite. And fact it has happened w/so little controversy & just slipped into broadcast in 3rd quarter like a random segment feels like more progress than I expected. Shout out to Michael Sam who paved way for this. pic.twitter.com/P6YKlq2yIX
— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) September 14, 2021
Nassib didn’t have as many opportunities for his highlight reel, since he plays on defense. But when he got the opportunity, he took it.
The game went to overtime with the Raiders and Ravens tied at 27. The Raiders came within inches of scoring a touchdown on their first possession (which would have been an automatic victory), but they fell short after numerous tries, and turned the ball over to the Ravens.
That meant the Ravens had the opportunity to score, and whichever team secured the next score of any kind would be the winner. The Ravens began marching down the field, coming closer to scoring, until Nassib sacked quarterback Lamar Jackson and made him fumble the ball. Nassib’s teammate Darius Philon recovered the ball and the Raiders had possession.
Two plays later, the Raiders essentially walked in with a touchdown, securing the victory thanks to Nassib’s help.
This defensive line… All heart.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) September 14, 2021
Nassib finished the night with 3 solo tackles in addition to the pivotal sack and forced fumble.
Out journalist LZ Granderson, an ABC and ESPN contributor, wrote a column for the Los Angeles Times which noted that the night “marks the end of a century of institutionalized homophobia.” Outsports founder Cyd Zeigelr wrote that Nassib’s role in securing the game made “Hollywood writers everywhere… jealous.”
Nassib said after the game, “[There are] a lot of firsts today. I was really taking it in as much as I could…
“I’ve played in a lot of games… and I won’t forget this one,” he added.
— Cassie Soto (@_CassieSoto) September 14, 2021
The victory and top highlight puts the cap on a whirlwind three months for Nassib, and LGBTQ athletes as a whole. After years of a lack of representation playing across male sports, Nassib made the difference by coming out on June 21 with a simple Instagram post. He also donated $100,000 to the Trevor Project, which fights LGBTQ youth suicide.
Earlier this month, Nassib became the first out NFL player on an active roster for a team. Although 15 other NFL players have come out since or amidst their careers, none played in a NFL game or were on an in-season active roster while out.
Nassib asked for privacy and didn’t speak much about his identity after that announcement, although he thanked fans for their support at an August press conference.
“I was definitely surprised by the big reaction. It was incredible,” he said. “I thought nobody would care. But it was such a good feeling to have all the support. I was glad I could do my part to help bring visibility and representation to my community.”
He said that his team has been supportive and that his teammates haven’t made the locker room awkward.
“I’ve got a great locker room, great teammates,” he stressed. “I’ve been met with nothing but love and support. It’s been incredible… Football players get a bad rap, but we’re humble, hard-working, accepting people, and this was a great example of that, definitely.”
Not only has his team embraced him, but other athletes, like NBA legend Charles Barkley and out former NFL player Ryan K. Russell, did as well.
LGBTQ people — including some that played professional sports — around the world are celebrating his victory, too.
Editor’s Note: You can vote now for Nassib, or one of the four other nominees — Billy Porter, Mj Rodriguez, JoJo Siwa, and Bowen Yang — to become the LGBTQ Nation Hero Celebrity who Made us Proud. Vote here.
Carl Nassib just became the first openly gay player to play in an NFL game. It may be a sign of progress that no one is treating this as a particularly big deal.
— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) September 14, 2021
— SB Nation (@SBNation) September 14, 2021
I was sitting next to a reporter who was writing a story about Carl Nassib but he had to leave early to leave a flight. We were talking and joking that Nassib would make a game-changing play as soon as he left… and oh boy…
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) September 14, 2021
Carl Nassib for the win! 🏈 🏳️🌈
— R.K. Russell (@RKRelentless) September 14, 2021
Carl Nassib did the damn thing!
— Kenny King Jr (@KennyKing_Jr) September 14, 2021
🏳️🌈 Nassib came out in June last year via a statement on Instagram. pic.twitter.com/XLRCqTs1bT
— Openly 🏳️🌈 (@Openly) September 14, 2021
— Cassie Soto (@_CassieSoto) September 14, 2021