Column: Nassib barely pulls out a shot for the undefeated Raiders | Basketball

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There are all kinds of stories swirling around the Las Vegas Raiders.

They head into Sunday’s game against Miami looking for their first 3-0 start in nearly two decades. Quarterback Derek Carr plays like an MVP. Defense is much improved.

Do you know something that you don’t hear much about?

Carl Nassib exits.

Turns out it didn’t cause a major uproar or tear up the locker room when the Raiders’ defense was became the first prominent male athlete playing in a major team sport in the United States – the NFL, no less – to reveal he’s gay.

After decades of debate over the supposed negative impact a gay player would have on a team’s chemistry, Nassib’s courageous announcement last summer appears to have largely faded.

“It’s a big story, but it’s not a story at all,” said Eric Anderson, professor of sports masculinity and health at the University of Winchester in England.

Indeed, Nassib is just another valued player in a team that has big aspirations for 2021.

“Not a single person, from my perspective, has treated him differently,” Carr said. “His locker is just steps from mine, and I want to make sure he knows we just want him to play as hard as he can so we can win a Super Bowl.”

So, wasn’t Nassib’s coming out a big deal?

Of course not.

There is still a lot of homophobia in this world – and especially in men’s team sports, where all kinds of evil prejudices linger just below the surface.

Nassib and the Raiders hopefully lead us to a more tolerant locker room in all sports.

“He challenges this idea that the identity of an athlete and the identity of an LGBTQ person do not mix and match,” said Yannick Kluch, director of outreach and inclusive excellence at the Center for Sport Leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Certainly, things have changed for the better.

When I looked into this very question for a story in 2004, it quickly became clear that many professional male athletes were not at all prepared to accept a gay teammate. They openly expressed their hostility.

At the Atlanta Braves clubhouse, I encountered excruciating gay rights resistance from future Hall of Fame member John Smoltz, who said, “What’s next? Marry an animal? “

Wide receiver Eddie Perez took a less abrasive but similar line, saying he’d like to know in advance that he’s playing with a gay teammate.

“If I knew a guy is gay then I might be okay with it,” Perez said at the time. “I could hide when I take my clothes off.”

With same-sex marriage now legal and LBGTQ rights widely accepted, Smoltz and Perez sound like relics of a much more ignorant era.

Still, it took 17 more years before someone of Nassib’s stature – not an All-Pro, of course, but a solid player still in his twenties, with 37 starts in his six-year career – to break one of the last great obstacles in sports.

“It shows how homophobic American men’s team sports still are,” Kluch said. “There are always anti-gay barriers in place that make the athlete feel like they are not safe to show who they really are.”

Before Nassib, there were a few less influential breakthroughs.

Michael Sam came out after playing college football, but was never a part of the NFL regular season roster. Long-time NBA player Jason Collins has waited until late in his career to reveal he is gay, having only played a handful of games before his retirement.

Kluch hopes Nassib is just the start of a much bigger wave of gay players in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and the NHL.

Other sports also, like men’s tennis.

“Statistically speaking, there will most likely be at least one gay athlete on every professional men’s sports team,” he said.

Anderson takes issue with the idea that there is a plethora of male athletes hiding their sexuality. He said changing standards had moved many young gay men away from so-called traditional sports, especially football.

“Young boys used to participate in these competitive, organized and macho team sports in order to increase their social capital, in order to increase their heterosexual capital,” said Anderson, who in 1993 became the first coach. openly gay high school student in the United States. .

“What we have seen is not just the rapid decline in cultural homophobia, but a rapid decline in young men wanting to be associated with this type of masculinity,” he continued. “Young gay boys don’t have to play football now because nobody cares about being gay.”

Still, there are players like Jaden Vazquez, who became bisexual after his freshman year at Fordham, a college Football Championship Subdivision in New York City. He is now a senior linebacker for the Rams.

“I’ve been playing since second year,” Vazquez said. “Football is a game you fall in love with. “

There were some difficult times as he faced his emerging sexuality.

“I was worried that someone would surprise me,” Vazquez said. “I didn’t want to play female, especially in such a male sport.”

Vazquez hopes Nassib inspires other athletes to live openly and proudly.

“There might be younger LGBTQ athletes who want to play but fear discrimination from others,” Vazquez said. “I know when I was younger, if I had seen LGBTQ athletes, I would have felt more comfortable, more supported, knowing that someone else had.”

In a season opener win over Baltimore, Nassib proposed the game of the game in overtime. He pulled the ball out from Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Raiders recovered and three games later, Carr delivered the late-game touchdown pass.

Afterwards everyone said how big a room it was. No one has spoken about the fact that the first openly gay NFL player was created.

Kluch said it was no surprise that Nassib played such an important role in the very first game of the season, or that the Raiders are having such a promising start.

“The data shows it’s not a distraction, and it can even make a team stronger,” Kluch said. “A team usually performs better if there is confidence, if people can be themselves.”

Nassib is true to himself.

His teammates and coaches only seem to care what he can do to help win football matches.

We would call it a win for everyone.

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Paul Newberry is a national sports columnist for the Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry (at) ap.org or at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and discover his work on https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

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Associated Press Writer WG Ramirez in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP—NFL



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