Last night at the NFL Honors awards show, the National Football League recognized Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib for the impact and significance of being the first out gay and active player in league history.
Hall of Fame former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin delivered a moving speech discussing the significance of Nassib's coming out at the popular awards ceremony.
"Last year, a one-minute Instagram video had an impact that is impossible to measure," Irvin said. "It declared unequivocally that members of the LGBTQ+ community compete at the highest level in the National Football League."
Nassib's coming out was deeply personal for Irvin, as he explained to the attendees in the audience and viewers watching back home.
"Years ago, when I learned my brother Vaughn was gay, news like that would have been a 'stop the presses' kind of moment," Irvin continued. "Instead, it was greeted warmly and widely by the NFL family and the world at large. But, we cannot underestimate what that single message meant to countless athletes and other members of the community, who have long hid their true selves out of fear."
A short video presentation followed, with out, LGBTQ+ athletes young and old discussing how Nassib's coming out inspired them and impacted their lives. Former offensive lineman Ryan O'Callaghan appeared in the video, discussing his own experiences growing up as a young and closeted athlete.
"And because of the things I heard growing up about gay people I was convinced that I couldn't come out," the former New England Patriot and Kansas City Chief revealed.
Nassib came out in the now famous video last year in time for Pride Month.
"What's up people," Nassib said in the Instagram video last June. "I'm at my house in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I'm gay. I've been meaning to do this for a while now but finally feel comfortable getting it off my chest. I really have the best life, the best family, friends and job a guy can ask for."
While the NFL Honors show honored Nassib, it was also another opportunity for Irvin to demonstrate the meaning of allyship.
Irvin told Out in a 2011 cover story how, at the age of 12 while driving in a car with his father, he saw the older brother he idolized leaving their home wearing women's clothing. Stunned, Irvin turned to his father who made clear the importance of family with a few simple words.
"My dad looked back at me and said, 'Yes, that's your brother. And you love your brother,'" Irvin recalled for Out.
"If anyone comes out in those top four major sports, I will absolutely support him," Irvin said, later emphatically adding, "When a guy steps up and says, 'This is who I am,' I guarantee you I'll give him 100 percent support."
Nassib and the Raiders ended with a 10-7 record in the competitive AFC West division this season. They earned a ticket to the playoffs with a stirring victory in the last game of the regular season, but lost the wildcard game to eventual AFC champions, the Cincinnati Bengals.
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