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Leon Kaye headshot

This NFL Player’s Coming Out Journey Offers a Lesson for the Business Community

One reason why Pride Month is important to many LGBTQ citizens is to recognize that it wasn't too long ago when not being straight was a fact to hide.
By Leon Kaye

Most would assume that someone would have almost nothing to fear in life if that person is 6’ 7”, weighs in at 275 pounds and can run a 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds. But tell that to Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib, who earlier this week came out as gay on Instagram, becoming the first active NFL player to ever do so.

“Sadly, I have agonized over this moment for 15 years,” Nassib wrote in his public statement. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a shock or headline-grabbing news that an NFL player, or any professional athlete for that matter, comes out as LGBTQ. Then again, one reason why Pride Month is important to many in the LGBTQ community in the first place is to recognize the fact that it was not too long ago when not being straight was something to hide.

To those who still insist that one’s “personal life” should be kept out of the professional world, check in on that belief the next time straight colleagues in the office talk about their families or how they were palling around with their friends over the weekend. On that point, the personal responses of love and support from various athletes and teams to Nassib’s news have been almost more headline-worthy than his very personal announcement itself. Not long ago, there would have been posts with reactions like “I had no idea” or “I’m shocked.”

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Take the reaction of whoever manages the Raiders’ Twitter feed, which issued a simple, “Proud of you, Carl.” That is a step forward for a team with a history of being far from gifted in public relations — just follow the team’s sordid history of moving from Oakland to Los Angeles then back to Oakland and, now, to southern Nevada.

Of course, the team’s current owner, Mark Davis, for some odd reason had to make the point to ESPN that “it doesn’t change my opinion of him as a Raider.” (Shouldn’t any news be about Nassib anyway, not Mark Davis?)

Davis’ comment is a gentle reminder that we still have a long road ahead until people who identify as LGBTQ feel accepted in any setting. Sure, we are largely past the point at which being LGBTQ is a surprise, but we are still in a reality in which employers are quick to tell the community that “yes, we stand by you,” while donating to political leaders who prefer this community stays in the closet.

We have not quite reached the end of the road. Until then, many LGBTQ employees will still feel as if they need to question whether they can be their true selves in the physical or virtual office. And therein lies a reminder for companies that continue to see Pride Month as more of a public relations opportunity than showing a commitment to making their employees feel welcome and comfortable in the workplace. It’s not a huge ask: Ask them about their experiences, listen to them, let them share their stories and, finally, learn from them.

We’ll wrap up by mentioning Nassib’s $100,000 donation to the Trevor Project, an organization that offers free and confidential crisis counseling in its push to prevent suicide by LGBTQ youth. Click here to learn more and to donate to this organization that is saving lives.

Image credit: Daniel Álvasd/Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye