Carl Nassib is a winning member of the Raiders who happens to be gay
LOS ANGELES, September 14, 2021 — A few weeks ago, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to announce that he is gay. The reaction to Mr. Nassib’s announcement was met with mostly positive responses. The NFL embraced him. The fans were happy for him.
And on September 13th of 2021, Nassib became the first openly gay player to start in an NFL regular season game.
By the end of the night, Nassib became known for a very different positive reason.
In one of the wildest games in Monday Night Football history, Nassib made the key defensive play in overtime that allowed the Raiders to defeat the favored Baltimore Ravens 33-27. The sold out crowd at the Las Vegas Death Star stadium erupted in celebration.
Nassib was not the most valuable player of the game.
That would be Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who had 435 passing yards. Carr was lights out in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Nassib was not the best defensive player on the field.
That would be Maxx Crosby, who harassed former league MVP Lamar Jackson all night. On the key defensive play, Crosby was blocked by two offensive linemen. That left Nassib unblocked. Nassib made the most of his opportunity.
Nassib charged straight at Jackson and got the trifecta.
He sacked Jackson, forced Jackson to fumble, and recovered the fumble himself. Nassib’s standout effort came at a moment in the game where the Raiders looked like they were destined to lose. They had squandered a golden opportunity by failing to move the ball from the Baltimore one-yard line to the end zone.
Nassib got the ball back. He gave the Raiders offense one more chance, and they finally closed things out with a touchdown bomb from Carr to Zee Jones. The offense scored the winning touchdown, but it was all set up by Nassib’s standout defensive play.
After the game, many members of the gay community celebrated Nassib.
Heterosexual people also heaped praise on Nassib. The gay community has every reason to feel pride in Nassib. Every community feels pride when one of their own achieves success.
Nevertheless, there is a bigger picture. Carl Nassib is no longer just a gay football player. He is not a novelty. He is not a token diversity hire meant to please a constituency.
Carl Nassib is a great football player (who happens to be gay). He is in the NFL because he deserves to be in the NFL. He is on the Raiders because he deserves to be. Not your skin color, religion, or sexual preference allows you to step on the grid-iron. You have to be able to play better.
In the 2020 season of the HBO football special “Hard Knocks,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden delivered a simple message to all of his players.
“If you don’t know what to do, you won’t play here.”
Nassib knows what to do. That is why he is playing.
Football is the ultimate team game.
Owner Mark Davis is Jewish. Quarterback Derek Carr is a devout Christian. Maxx Crosby is straight. Carl Nassib is gay. Zee Jones and Darren Waller are black. Hunter Renfrow is white. They are all Raiders. They are all winners.
This is to be expected from the organization molded by the late Raiders owner Al Davis. A renegade who feuded with the league, Davis was also deeply committed to civil rights.
Al Davis hired the first black head coach of the modern era in Art Shell.
Davis told Shell that he did not hire him because he was black. He hired him because he was a Raider and a winner.
Shell took the Raiders to the AFC Title Game in his first full season as head coach.
Davis hired the first Hispanic head coach in Tom Flores, a Mexican.
Flores won two Super Bowls with quarterback Jim Plunkett, also a Mexican. Flores and Plunkett became the first Mexican coach and quarterback to win the Super Bowl. They were Raiders and they were winners.
Davis’s philosophy worked because of two of his most famous slogans, “Commitment to Excellence” and “Just win baby!”
The first meant that hiring the best-qualified people was first. Regardless of the boxes they check. By focusing on excellence, diversity will naturally happen. The second one was that the goal of an organization is to win. Diversity is irrelevant if it leads to failure.
Sadly, several previous attempts at diversity failed in the NFL because the players chosen failed.
The 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers started the first black quarterback in Joe Gillam. Unfortunately, Gillam had a drug problem and lost his job to Terry Bradshaw, who would win four Super Bowls. In 1987, Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
Gillam was not good enough. Williams was.
Michael Sam announced that he was gay before the 2014 NFL Draft.
He was drafted in the seventh round by the Rams. Unfortunately, Sam was simply not good enough to play in the NFL. He was a great college player who was just not able to transition to the pro game. This was not because he was gay. Tim Tebow is a devout Christian who developed a following from his community just like Sam did from his.
Tebow flamed out of the NFL because he just was not good enough. Not because he is a Christian.
The Al Davis philosphy Just Win Baby extends to other areas of life.
Shannon Faulkner became the very first female Cadet to enter the Citadel. Sadly, she failed to graduate and dropped out of the program. She was unable to handle the rigorous physical requirements.
Jackie Robinson is still lionized for breaking the baseball color barrier, but his beloved status is only possible because he was a great player.
Professional sports require excellence.
Only around 1,600 people in the entire world are good enough to play in the NFL. Football requires hard work. It requires toughness, grit, character, guts, and heart.
Carl Nassib has all of that in spades. While some people see him as courageous for being gay and making it to the NFL, that analysis misses the mark. Nassib showed courage by taking one of the league’s best quarterbacks and knocking him to the ground when it mattered most.
The goal of any marginalized group should not be special treatment.
It should be full equality and nothing more or less.
If Nassib being gay gets downplayed going forward, that is a good thing. His sexuality should not be celebrated or condemned. It should illicit shrugs. Most people in America are already at the shrugging stage. The Raider Nation has welcomed Nassib with open arms because he is a good football player. Raider Nation likes to win.
Derek Carr is a great quarterback (who happens to be Christian). Maxx Crosby is a great defensive end (who happens to drive an orange Porsche). Carl Nassib is a great defensive end (who happens to be gay).
They are all Raiders. They are all winners.
Thirty years from now, Nassib’e forced fumble and recovery will still be in Raiders highlight reels and marketing videos. He is forever in the Raiders history books of big time players who made big time plays in the biggest moments of big games.
That is Carl Nassib’s legacy going forward. Nassib made history because of his sexuality. Now he is making history for his excellence.
That is America. That is football. And this is Raider Nation.
Commitment to excellence. Just win baby!
About the Author:
Brooklyn-born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist, and comedian. But he lives for football. Particularly the Raiders.