The Las Vegas Raiders’ Carl Nassib made history on Monday, becoming the first active NFL player to come out as gay—saying he had agonized about doing so since he was a teenager.
Nassib, 28, made the announcement in an Instagram video that garnered more than 10,000 likes in an hour and was commented on by the team with three black heart emojis.
“What’s up, people?” he said in the video. “I’m at my house in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay.
“I’m a pretty private person so I hope you guys know that I’m not doing this for attention,” he added. “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.”
A half-dozen other players have come out as gay after retirement, but Nassib is the first to do so while playing.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell praised the player “for courageously sharing his truth today.”
“Representation matters,” he said in a statement. “We share his hope that someday soon statements like his will no longer be newsworthy as we march toward full equality for the LGBTQ+ community. We wish Carl the best of luck this coming season.”
In a statement accompanying the video, the defensive lineman went into greater detail about his decision to come out, writing, “Right now I am sitting in a moment of gratitude and relief. Sadly, I have agonized over this moment for the last 15 years.”
“Only recently, thanks to my family and friends... did it seem possible for me to say publicly and proudly that I’m gay,” he continued.
He also thanked his teammates and coaches for their support, writing that “from the jump, I was treated with the utmost respect and acceptance.”
Nassib used his coming out as an opportunity to highlight the damage done to LGBTQ youth who are not as easily accepted, and to spotlight The Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention services, with a $100,000 donation.
“I truly love my life and cannot understand why I have been blessed with so much,” he wrote. “I feel especially thankful to have had so much support when many who came before—and many even now—do not. I stand on the shoulders of giants, incredible people who paved the way for me to have this opportunity.”
The 6-foot-7 athlete suggested he doesn’t want the news to become a distraction for him, saying he owes it to the team and himself to be “completely locked in at my best this coming season.”
He signed off with a double message: “Happy Pride Month and Go Raiders.”