It was an all-around historic evening when the Raiders hosted the Ravens on September 13 for Monday Night Football: It marked the first time fans were in attendance at the Raiders’ new stadium in Las Vegas and it was the first time out gay defensive end Carl Nassib played a regular season game since coming out — and he made a big statement in front of a national audience.
Behind more than 61,000 fans, the Raiders were just inches away from scoring the game-winning touchdown in overtime when quarterback Derek Carr threw an interception to give the Ravens new life. Nassib, however, went on to save his team on defense with a strip-sack of quarterback Lamar Jackson, forcing a turnover and putting the Raiders in prime position for the game-winning score. Carr then unloaded a 31-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones to secure the victory for Las Vegas.
The Carl Nassib forced fumble that set up the Raiders’ game-winner TD 💪
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 14, 2021
“It was really special,” Nassib, who came out as gay in June, told reporters after the game. “I’m really happy that we got the win on the day that kind of made a little bit of history which was really nice to do.”
Nassib is a backup defensive end, but he took advantage of his opportunities by putting pressure on Jackson and tallying two tackles before forcing the pivotal turnover. He drew praise from head coach Jon Gruden, who said after the game that Nassib had a “great training camp” and “we’re going to need him here obviously as we move forward.”
Two out former NFL players cheered on Nassib during the game — and both could relate to him given that they played defense end themselves. RK Russell, who came out as bisexual in 2019 after stints with the Cowboys and Buccaneers, celebrated Nassib’s performance on Twitter by retweeting highlights and writing, “Carl Nassib for the win!” alongside emojis showing a football and Rainbow Flag. Michael Sam, who was the first out gay player to be drafted but never played in a regular season game, also retweeted highlights and responded to a Twitter post from a fan who said Sam “was robbed of a career.”
“Lol I appreciate the support but [in] all honestly does it matter?” Sam asked. “I mean, I definitely wasn’t the first gay player to play the game and Carl won’t be the only out player much longer. All that matters is representation.”
Nassib came out in a video he posted on social media in which he explained that he felt “comfortable enough” to finally come out, but acknowledged that he is a “pretty private person, so I hope you guys know I’m not doing this for attention.” As part of his coming out announcement, Nassib said he was donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project. Nassib was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2016 and went on to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before inking a three-year deal with the Raiders in 2020. He was a walk-on at Penn State University.
“I’ve played in a lot of games, now this is my sixth year,” Nassib said after the game. “I try to make sure I really remember every single game. I won’t forget this one.”