"I just wanted to take a quick moment to say I'm gay"

Carl Nassib, first active player in NFL history to publicly announce his homosexuality

Àlex Gozalbo
4 min
Carl Nassib

BarcelonaNaturally and decisively. Carl Nassib, Riders player, has become the first active player in the history of the NFL to publicly announce his homosexuality. "I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now but finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest. I really have the best life, I’ve got the best family, friends and job a guy can ask for. I'm a pretty private person, so I hope you know I'm not doing this for attention, but because I think visibility is important", he said in a message he posted on social media.

Nassib has also announced that he will be making a $100,000 donation to the Trevor Project, which seeks to help people in the LGTBQ+ community with suicide prevention. Both his franchise, the Las Vegas Riders, and the NFL have issued a statement to celebrate his announcement and show pride, while hoping that in the future this will no longer be in the news.

In 2014, Michael Sam came out of the closet when he was at the doorstep of the NFL, but he never got to play competitively. The fact that he didn't find a team was surrounded by controversy, as some considered the decision homophobic and others justified it athletically.

In 2013 Jason Collins became the first athlete in one of the four major American leagues to make his homosexuality public. "I play in the NBA, I'm black and I'm gay", he said. Another precedent is John Amaechi, who spoke about his sexual orientation when he was already retired. "It's a part of my life and I'm still surprised people find it interesting. I'm more of an example of normality, but it's true that I'm a bit more known than other people", he explained in an interview with ARA. Most athletes continue to hide their sexuality. "It's time to evolve. This is not a question of religion or education, it's another example of how our society is today. All individuals are different, this should have been overcome, but.... I don't expect everything to change soon, but I hope that one day everything will be more normal", he added.

Does society need more examples of elite athletes? "I do not agree. We need more teachers, more politicians, more of everything ... There are few politicians, for example, who have taken the step. We do not have to accept that there are still people in our society who attack someone because of their sexuality. I'm a big fan of looking for ambitious challenges and making them happen. People should look at my example. I'm black, I'm gay and I've gone on to play in the NBA and become one of their European ambassadors. If I've been able to do that, everyone should be able to make their dreams come true", he said.

Fears in a heteronormative environment

Victor Gutierrez, CN Terrassa player, reported a few weeks ago that he had received homophobic insults by a rival of CN Sabadell, Nemanja Ubovic, during a water polo match of the Division of Honor. "I have lived an episode of homophobia. A player of the rival team has called me fag during the match. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it because we all say things that we later regret. But at the end of the match I didn't want to shake his hand because of what he had said and he called me a faggot again. The stands and some of my team-mates heard it and I was quite upset. I'm proud to be who I am, to be gay, to be queer, which for me is not an insult, but it struck a chord with me" said the player.

"This has happened to me before, but I didn't want to share it because I thought it was more positive to send a conciliatory message. The message of losing your fear and showing yourself is more powerful than the negative things, but I don't want to let it go any more. That's enough", said Gutierrez, who could not hold back the tears. The player explained to the referees what had happened. "As they didn't hear it, they couldn't write it down in the minutes. We have to have zero tolerance for this kind of behaviour", he added.

Marc Fortuny is a judoka who had to leave competitive sport in order to come out of the closet. "I didn't have any gay reference in high performance sport and this might have helped me to see things in a different way. I didn't feel I identified with the stereotypes that exist in society. I couldn't even sleep, I didn't accept myself, and my performance suffered. I couldn't move forward and I decided to quit judo - a sport I had practised since I was five years old - to accept myself", Fortuny told ARA, who was 23 when he quit elite sport.

"His own fears and prejudices affected him to the point that he found it hard to accept himself. He didn't feel safe and thought it was his own fault. The environment he was in had a derogatory language towards other sexual orientations. He had a lot of fear. He told me he wanted to be normal and I told him he already was", explained Anna Vilanova. The professor of sociology of sport at INEFC in Barcelona lived the whole process. "In Marc's life there was no gay reference. When he decided to make the change, everything went smoothly and nothing happened to him that worried him", she recalled. "Everything I feared might happen, including being rejected, didn't come true, it was the opposite. I didn't know how my environment would react and the response was and is very good. The worries I had were false, the reality is much easier. I was afraid of my relationship with my teammates and I asked myself absurd questions, as if they would make me the vacuum or if I would look bad", added Fortuny. Vilanova is clear about the origin of Marc's doubts: "They are fears that come from a heteronormative environment that doesn't make it easy because it doesn't talk about it".