For better or for worse, the world of professional athletics is a very cut throat place. One day, you can be the best player in the world. The next you are washed up and selling insurance in Des Moines, Iowa. Whether it be because of personal issues, drug addiction, unfortunate injury, or just getting old, all athletes are forced to stop playing. Professional football is the biggest offender of the “here today, gone tomorrow” phenomenon.
That being said, there have been some athletes who were able to overcome all of those things. We all remember the heroic comeback of Alex Smith from that horrific leg injury. Michael Vick had a career renaissance after being incarcerated for running a dog fighting ring. And, of course, Tom Brady is still shoving success right in Father Time’s face.
For years, possibly the NFLs greatest coach Bill Belichick has said that if a player can contribute, they’ll be on the squad.
Of course, there are always outliers. Those players who are more trouble than they are worth can ruin a team. Names like Antonio Brown, Johnny Manziel and Colin Kaepernick come to mind. Those three took different approaches and basically kept themselves out of the league for a variety of reasons. Some people may disagree with me on Kaepernick, but that’s a fight for another day.
Regardless of your opinion on those players, there is something that should definitely not have anything to do with your performance on the field. That is who you are attracted to. I say that on the heels of Raiders Defensive Lineman Carl Nassib becoming the first active NFL player announcing that he is gay.
Nassib, who has been in the league for five years now, is a reliable veteran player. Averaging around 30 tackles and a few sacks per year. Needless to say, that is pretty good when the average NFL career is shorter than a high school career.
The fact that he announced that he prefers the romantic company of men should have no impact on his career. Although he made this pretty courageous announcement, he is still the same person he was yesterday. Who he is attracted to will not have any impact on his play on the field. Just like who other players are canoodling with typically doesn’t have any effect on their performance.
Sure, there will be some players who make anti-gay comments on the field, which isn’t good, but it’s going to happen. The first rule of trash talk is finding something an opponent is sensitive about, and get after them. I think Nassib knows this, and is going to be ready for it. I’m also sure that if he is a good teammate, the Raiders will have his back and defend their brother.
The beauty of sports is that it takes the things that typically divide us in life and throws them out the window. Being an athlete myself, I’ve played with a great variety of people from all kinds of backgrounds. I’ve been on teams with white people, black people, Asian people, Latino people, people who are, gay, lesbian, transgender, former convicts, super religious folks and people with all kinds of disabilities. The way I see it, if you work hard and do your best to contribute to the team, then you can be my teammate.
Now there are a few things that shouldn’t be worked with. If you hurt kids, or break some kind of huge law, then you may fall into that “more trouble than worth” category.
In Nassib’s case, I have no information that says he is some kind of criminal or anything. I also don’t know him personally. I know him as a random defensive lineman that I’m pretty sure was on one of my franchise rosters in Madden.
I am sure that all any athlete who is gay or some other sexual orientation wants, is to be treated just like everyone else. Nassib just wants his play to do the talking. If he is good enough to make a 53 man roster, then he should. And if his play isn’t good enough, then he should be cut. Because, like it or not, all NFL players are expendable parts, regardless of their situation.