Carl Nassib, who made history as the NFL’s first openly gay active player, announced his retirement after seven seasons.
Nassib, 30, a defensive end from Penn State, was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 2016 draft. After two seasons in Cleveland, he joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two years, then the Las Vegas Raiders for two more years before finishing his seventh — and final — season on the Buccaneers.
Nassib came out as gay prior to the 2021 season, becoming the first active LGBTQ player in NFL history to make a team’s 53-man roster.
He followed in the footsteps of Michael Sam, the former University of Missouri defensive end who was the first out gay man drafted to a team in 2014, but who failed to make the then-St. Louis Rams’ final 53-man roster, and Ryan Russell, a former free agent who came out as bisexual in 2019, who had previously played for the Buccaneers.
In total, Nassib played nine regular season games during the course of his career, amassing 25.5 sacks, 187 tackles, and four forced fumbles.
Writing in an Instagram post dated September 6, Nassib announced he would be retiring from professional football to focus on his company Rayze, a digital media platform that focuses only on positive news and stories as a way to counter the toxic and divisive nature of most mainstream social media platforms.
Reflecting how he had made Penn State’s football team as a walk-on, rather than being recruited out of high school, Nassib expressed gratitude at being able to play in the National Football League.
“Football has given me more than I ever could have imagined,” Nassib wrote. “I can truly hang up my helmet for the last time knowing I gave it everything I had.
“Growing up I loved how fun football was,” he continued. “I loved the pursuit of perfection. I loved the small window where every player has to chase their dreams. It makes it all the more exciting if you get there. It was always my dream to play in the NFL, even as a walk-on, and I really feel like the luckiest guy on the planet.”
When Nassib came out, which he also announced via Instagram, he pledged to donate $100,000 to support the programming and support services of The Trevor Project, the nation’s top suicide prevention and crisis intervention advocacy group for LGBTQ youth. Following his announcement, the organization’s website traffic increased by more than 350%, and the organization received a 100% increase in daily online donations.
The NFL matched Nassib’s donation on the day following his announcement, and by the Raiders on March 1, 2022, the day before the team released Nassib.
Nassib told Good Morning America host Michael Strahan, a former Super Bowl champion for the New York Giants, in a 2021 interview that he “agonized” about coming out but ultimately decided to come out to “stay ahead of the narrative.”
“I just wanted to own the story and make sure I did it on my terms,” he said. “One of my biggest fears was that I would only be remembered for being gay. I just wanted to show that it really doesn’t matter, your sexual orientation.”
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