Regina's football community reacts after NFL player comes out as gay

Last week, Carl Nassib, a 28-year-old defensive lineman for the Las Vegas Raiders, became the first and only current openly gay player in the NFL.

“Just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay,” said Carl Nassib in a video posted to Instagram. “I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now and I finally feel comfortable getting it off my chest.”

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No openly gay player has ever appeared in an NFL regular season game. The announcement sparked conversation around the NFL, but also among the football community in Regina.

Mira Trebilcock, who is part of the LGBTQ2S+ community and a member of the Regina Riot football team, said having a high profile athlete come out as gay is incredibly important for young athletes.

“Whether it’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, if you can’t see yourself in that person's footsteps or in their shoes, it’s really hard to aspire to have those goals,” said Trebilcock.

Claire Dore, who played for the Regina Riot and now coaches a number of football teams including the Riot and Balfour Bears, said as a coach, seeing Nassib come out reminds her about the ways players and coaches talk on the football field.

“I think this reminds people that lots of the language used is not appropriate,” said Dore. “The way we talk about our athletes and our opposition needs to be respectful.”

Dore said she remembers when female athletes first began coming out publicly and the concern and hate that was spread.

“I know from women who came out many years ago, there was a lot of kickback on ‘Oh is this woman watching me in the shower because she’s gay,’” said Dore. “Is that possible? Certainly, but the hope is that people have come much further than that and they are able to recognize that nothing needs to change.”

Craig Reynolds, president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, said Nassib coming out is a great first step for football culture to change.

“Sometimes you just need somebody to be brave enough and be the first and you see other folks feeling comfortable enough to do that,” said Reynolds.

Trebilcock said she hopes that Nassib’s announcement is only the beginning for an acceptance of all people in society.

“Hopefully these conversations about coming out don’t have to happen in the future,” said Trebilcock. “ Using those platforms and talking about it, and eventually it is just a passing conversation not an announcement.”