Yesterday, history hit the sports world. Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib came out as gay. Nassib becomes the first player in any of the big four leagues (MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA) to be an active player and a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Over the weekend, I asked a few Rangers players and coaches what would happen if a teammate came out, and the responses were positive. None of them ever experienced that moment, but each would welcome that teammate. The amount of support Nassib received throughout the sports world was certainly notable, especially from his own Raiders teammates.
A few other NFL organizations stood by Nassib, including the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell. Before Tuesday’s Rangers game against the Oakland Athletics, I wondered what the reaction was and how it would create an opening for other athletes to feel that confidence within themselves. “I don’t know,” Kyle Gibson told me Tuesday. “For how I try to live my life is to love everybody. It’s just what I feel like my faith has taught me; I’m loved in a lot of situations and scenarios where I don’t deserve it.”
Chris Woodward told me he watched the documentary on Dale Scott and his story. “It was cool to hear him know how he felt free,” Woodward said. “I think everybody in this world deserves to be heard, to be free, and to be who they are.”
“I hope so; we need to do a better job of being inclusive as far as in an industry and as a society,” Chris Woodward responded after asking if Nassib will pave the way for others. “It’s a good starting point. Hopefully [others] who want to come out and be who they are, hopefully, that will allow them to be the same, without any fear.”
Rangers’ manager Chris Woodward is in his twenty-sixth season in professional baseball. In those years, he told me he never had that conversation with a player, “I say that because it’s unfortunate. I know that there were probably a few. I am always priding myself on being the one that could be the one to accept everybody no matter where you come from what you look like—it kind of hurts to know that nobody ever did. Maybe I never did play with anybody. The fact that it tells me that people are fearful of truly expressing who they are.”
While progress is made, Woodward told me there’s still work to do. “I think as a society today. It’s becoming more accepted to be who you are, which is a good thing. Still, in our sport and world, there’s a stigma that they don’t want. It’s tough. I can’t imagine. I know Dale Scott; you can see in his interview you can feel his energy of just being free. Hopefully [it] changes, and we can continue to move towards a society that is a lot more inclusive.” It gives folks a role model, and someone who grew up with no actual role model as a gay man in sports, it’s comforting to know that someone deals with similar struggles that you do.
You can be that person who saves a life. 🏳️🌈♥️
— NFL (@NFL) June 22, 2021
Look, as someone who was a closeted gay man until 2020, there’s no rush on these athletes who don’t feel comfortable. I firmly believe that a few closeted athletes have had conversations with their teammates. It’s not the public’s business until that specific individual feels it’s ready. “I think that’s a big decision for whoever that is,” Gibson told me. “Not only to family members from what I heard, but if you’re doing it among your peers in the locker room, I can only imagine the difficulty that comes with that.”
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