Well, that was a really surprising piece of news to hit suddenly late Monday afternoon. Carl Nassib, the defensive lineman for the Raiders, has come out publicly as gay. He becomes the first active gay player in the NFL (since Michael Sam never actually made a roster or played a game).

It’s been really surreal to watch what has happened since his Instagram video. Namely, that not much has happened. It feels like a reminder of how far we’ve come that Nassib basically being the second ever publicly gay current football player has mostly just been accepted with general congrats and thumbs up. When you actually look at the situation, it should still be a huge deal, and it is, but it doesn’t feel like the major moment that it did years ago with Sam.

Nassib has never been a household name and I’m sure a huge amount of fans said “who” when they first heard the news, but he’s not a nobody. He’s an acceptable defensive end, formerly of the Browns, and probably best known overall (before this at least) for giving his teammates financial advice on Hard Knocks. Now he’s come out and even though it shouldn’t be huge news, it also should kinda be huge news. We aren’t at a point where sports are widely accepting yet. He’s the second-ever player to come out, the first active player. Nobody else has done so except some former players well after their playing days. It took years from the first player coming out and a large shift in national sentiment for this to come to pass. I can only hope it leads to more players coming out to broaden the acceptance. I don’t want to wait for another half-decade for someone else to feel confident enough to risk coming out. The original Michael Sam comic that I repurposed for this one was #171, almost exactly 1k comics ago. That’s a long time to wait for a second player to feel safe enough to do it and a depressing indictment on the culture of football.

My thoughts turned to Sam a lot after the news broke. Sam took a huge bullet and it took a while for us to see the effects. Sam walked so Nassib could run. Sam is kind of a sad story looking back. It’s been so long since the news he felt forgotten for years until this week. His timing could have been better but the point remains that someone had to take that bullet and he did it. Nassib played his cards better. It’s pride month, the month that every corporation has now decided is gay branding time because putting a rainbow on your logo tricks some people into thinking you care. But by coming out in June and making a big public donation, Nassib basically played right into the machine and gave everyone an easy rally point. There is zero chance everyone in the league is okay with Nassib’s truth, but they can’t criticize him or be publicly skeptical right now, it would be a PR disaster. Hard to disparage a gay guy when your team’s logo is a rainbow.

Sam came out before the draft, a draft he was not highly rated in due to various factors, and thus became a distraction and whether or not he deserved a better chance could never truly be gleamed thanks to the circus around his status. Nassib doesn’t have to worry about that. He’s already on a solid contract and has proven himself. But Sam deserves credit forever for falling on that sword. The most cynical critic of Sam’s move might say he was too performative about it, that he did it to boost his stock when he was a fringe candidate. I remember seeing this take a lot back during Sam mania. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if it was a calculated move on Sam’s part. He did something no player before had the balls to do. Somebody had to be first, and by golly good for him for doing it.

How this gets received going forward will be worth watching. People who don’t like it aren’t going to be as public with it these days, but make no mistake there is absolutely going to be some resentment, from some teammates, from other people in the league, from fans. Gruden and Mark Davis have already given words of support and honestly, they both seem like the kinda guys who would be fine with it. But he’s teammates with Richie Incognito, a noted piece of shit who is on record as casually throwing around the bundle of sticks slur and plays the position opposite him. Part of his bullying of Jon Martin was homophobic in nature. Richie’s been quiet since he’s been a Raider but at this point trusting him to not be a shithead is asking for trouble. Outside a couple of his fellow linemen, and as of writing Derek Carr just gave his support, there hasn’t been too much public support from other Raiders as of yet. That’s not a big worry, but it’s something to keep an eye on because those are his immediate co-workers.

But looking at the world now…I think Nassib will be okay. For everything that has gone so wrong in the past decade it feels really heartwarming to see a guy come out, it be a huge deal, but simultaneously not be as big of a deal as it used to be. I wish him the best. Live your truth Carl.