Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Carl Nassib and the importance of role models

I have about as much interest in football, professional and otherwise, as I do in watching grass grow. Still, I've been looking at reports this morning about Carl Nassib, the 28-year-old defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders who celebrated Pride Month yesterday by announcing in a low-key kind of way that he is gay.

This analysis piece from NFL News, "How Carl Nassib's courageous announcement changed -- and challenged -- the NFL," goes some distance in explaining why this is perceived as --- and is --- such a big deal.

The key line in the piece, for me at least, was the next to the last paragraph: "It's Pride Month and Nassib gave so many a reason to be proud and, as importantly, a reason to feel hope among young members of the LGBTQ+ community who are struggling for acceptance."

Nassib also announced Monday that he would be donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to crisis intervention and suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth. He can afford to do this --- his current three-year contract brought with it a $25 million stipend. But it's still a big deal.

The line in his Instagram-post video that caught my attention was, "I actually hope that like one day, videos like this and the whole coming-out process are just not necessary. But until then, I'm going to do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that's accepting, that's compassionate ...."

Amen to that. I'm a member of an earlier and aging generation of men and women who had those extraordinarly difficult "coming out" conversations with family and friends at a time when, it seemed sometimes, that the odds were impossibly stacked against us.

It has gotten better, but I've yet to run into an "out" youngster who has not faced to some degree the same insecurities and fears. And that's why public examples like the one provided by Nassib yesterday remain of immeasurable importance.

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