One of the major recently stories in the NFL, if you read the headlines, came earlier this week when Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib came out as gay. Largely, his revelation was met with a great deal of support, in becoming the first active NFL player to be open about his sexuality.
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Zach Banner was teammates for a period of time with Nassib when both were with the Cleveland Browns in 2017. He appeared on 93.7 The Fan earlier this week and talked about his friend’s decision, saying of him, “I can tell you right now, before he even came out, he’s not only a good person, but a great teammate”.
If he was in my locker room, I would totally completely support him, which a lot of his guys with the Raiders have, they’ve done it publicly. It’s not just supporting Carl, but it’s supporting kids like Carl, who don’t have that outlet, who sometimes don’t have that support, who don’t have the financial means to be just fine living their lifestyle regardless if anybody cares about it, who are bullied, who are sometimes forced into suicide, and to hurting themselves.
The bravery and awesomeness that Carl displayed, sticking out on his own, I commend that, I support that, and I back that. And it’s stuff like that that needs to keep happening in the NFL. The reason why is that we represent the rest of the US, and the rest of the world, and we represent our audience, and our audience is dealing with those troubles, so it’s good that we’re able to publicly display how to handle those troubles.
While it has come to rub a portion of the fanbase the wrong way that Banner has become very outspoken, particularly in contrast to his limited contributions on the field—he missed 15 games due to a torn ACL last year just after having won the starting right tackle job—that certainly hasn’t discouraged him from expressing himself. He also addressed the matter of having teammates who would be uncomfortable with Nassib in their locker room.
“It would be dumb for me to say that that doesn’t happen in the NFL”, he said. “It’s one of those types of things that you have to sit them down and explain to them and create that empathy and let them realize that story, and let them realize that just because this man is coming out and owning his being gay, that doesn’t mean that he’s going to look at you, that he’s going to touch you”.
Nassib was a third-round pick by the Browns in 2016. He spent some time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before joining the Raiders last year, where he started five of 14 games. He has 143 career tackles with 20.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, an interception, and 16 passes defensed. The Raiders will visit the Steelers in Week 2 this year.