Carl Nassib shares passionate message of inclusivity with Eagles (2024)

Carl Nassib stood alone at the front of the NovaCare Complex auditorium on a Monday morning in early June.

No, the former Penn State All-American and seven-year NFL veteran is not coming out of retirement to play for his hometown team much to his chagrin.

Nassib, decked out in a polo shirt and black jeans, joked about how his first trip to the Eagles' facility had nothing to do with what happens on the field. Instead, Nassib displayed vulnerability in delivering to the Eagles organization the story of his journey, one that began as a die-hard fan of the team growing up in the Philadelphia suburb of West Chester to earning a scholarship as a walk-on at Penn State to being drafted by the Cleveland Browns and later released for everyone to witness on Hard Knocks to becoming the first active openly gay NFL player in 2021.

Nassib may have announced to the world his sexual orientation in an Instagram post nearly three years ago, but the decision was in the works for years. He shared a story from his time with the Browns when he was on a date with a boyfriend, and the following day at the team facility, he was asked by an assistant coach about the dinner companion. Nassib blurted out that he was a cousin, frantically thinking whether there were any public displays of affection that might have given himself away. Wanting to focus on his football career, Nassib kept his private life, well, just that.

But in 2019, while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Nassib received an urgent call following a loss to Seattle. It was his mother, Mary, telling him that his uncle Bill Fischer, who was battling cancer, did not have much time to live. Nassib flew back to Tampa with the team and then quickly jumped on another plane to see his uncle in Washington, D.C. Fischer was gay, and as he lay on his deathbed, Nassib shared the news that he was as well.

"I knew I wasn't the only one," Fischer cried out.

On June 21, 2021, Nassib shared that he is gay in a video message and a written statement on his Instagram account that has been liked more than 760,000 times. Nassib braced for vitriol, citing the quote from Aristotle, "There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing."

The aftermath? Plenty of headlines, but mostly support. Nassib said that his personal relationships either stayed the same or improved. His closest friends and family members wanted to celebrate the occasion. He credited the NFL, adding that his interactions with the league have been substantial and positive.

Just prior to the start of the 2023 season, Nassib retired from the game. He is now a tech entrepreneur, before he was let go by the Browns on Hard Knocks he was a star of that show's season because of his deft financial acumen. He founded a social media platform – Rayze – designed to inspire volunteerism and charity. Next month, Nassib will join his alma mater Penn State's Board of Trustees after being elected earlier this year.

But it is not lost on him that just because his experience of coming out was positive, it's not like that for everyone. And not everyone feels safe enough to make such a declaration.

According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth (ages 13-24) are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. At least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds and 41 percent of LGBTQ+ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including roughly half of transgender and nonbinary youth. Additional research shows that transgender and nonbinary youth whose pronouns are respected by the people they live with were 50 percent less likely to attempt suicide as those whose pronouns were not respected. Nassib sees high school coaches as a critical key in providing empowerment and altering some of the alarming statistics listed above.

This is why, for Nassib, Pride Month still matters. He looks at his hometown of West Chester and one of the public high schools is named after Bayard Rustin, an openly gay civil rights activist whose story is largely unknown and hidden from most history books. An entire legacy of influential people is lost because of their sexuality. Nassib spoke to the Eagles organization as part of what he sees as "paying it forward." He wants the Eagles and all workplaces to be safe spaces for people to "shed off the layers that society puts on us to divide us." He calls for workplace leaders to cultivate a culture of respect and inclusivity. A key to achieving that, he says, is by asking open-ended questions that allow for openness and conversation.

"There really is an opportunity to connect with people on a human level," Nassib said. "You don't have to get bogged down by the things that make us different because the majority of the things that make us up as individuals we have in common with other people. I feel really, really excited about the future. I feel really happy that I get to live in this time."

Carl Nassib shares passionate message of inclusivity with Eagles (2024)
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