With Albert Breer on vacation, we have guest writers rounding out his Monday Morning Quarterback column. This column comes from Sam Rapoport, the NFL’s senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion.
My first draft of this column was garbage.
Unconsciously, I wrote a full 1,500-word essay as the person I thought everyone would want me to be. It fit the mold, it was corporate and boring.
You see, I grew up reading The MMQB. I posted questions to the column when I was in high school, hoping Peter King would answer one. So when Albert Breer asked me to tell my story on one of the biggest soccer media platforms, I froze and transformed in the first 10 years of my soccer career, when I acted as the person I thought everyone wanted me to be. .
He had known that he was gay, unequivocally, since he was five years old. I looked at my parents and wanted to be my father. I felt like a child and sometimes I thought I was. I spent my youth trying to figure out how to end my life so that no one would find out that it was a “mistake.” Even now, that word is difficult to write.
Although 40% of LGBTQ + youth attempt suicide, I was not at that camp. I just wanted it to end. I spent my life from five to 29 years planning how to end my life when I turned 40. For my young and underdeveloped brain, 40 was the age when I could no longer hide, the jig would be ready too many people would be asking me why he wasn’t married yet. I recently heard NFL legend Ryan O’Callaghan talk about his experience and, interestingly, he had the same thoughts growing up.
I am turning 40 in two weeks, and this upcoming birthday has added meaning to me. I will celebrate it in my backyard, with my phenomenal wife and outgoing three-year-old son.
I have always been a soccer addict. I have played touch, flag and tackle football at the highest levels offered to women all my life, and I was a huge Cowboys fan growing up. I was, and am, in love with sports. And football has also loved me.
When I was a senior in high school, I decided I couldn’t go to prom because I would have had to go with a boy. So, I told my parents and friends that I had a two-hour soccer tournament at the same time. I drove those two hours and sat on an empty soccer field for four more. This sounds sad now, but it was survival and it felt great at the time. Thanks, football.
Working in soccer was always a dream for me, and I achieved it when I landed an internship at the NFL league office in 2003. (In fact, I mailed a soccer ball in a package with my resume attached, yes You can believe it. It worked.) During my first week on the job, Emmitt Smith walked beside me in the hallway. In that moment I knew that the NFL league office was where I wanted to be. This season will be my 19th there.
However, I operated as two different people for the first 10 years of my soccer career. One of those people was thriving professionally, young in career, and the other was barely surviving and petrified that someone in the office would find out their truth.
I spent 10 years being the person I thought everyone wanted me to be.
She was wearing skirts and heels. If you know me now, it’s ridiculous. I only wear men’s clothing. I skipped every Christmas party, happy hour, and bonding opportunity that I could, and when I had to attend one for whatever reason, it wasn’t right, I had to write down my lies to follow them. My anxiety reached a critical point.
Then came February 2, 2013.
Many people in the LGBTQ + community know his date. That’s mine. I was there for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans and it was about time.
I was standing outside the Mahalia Jackson Theater after the 2013 NFL Honors show concluded. It was the first time I had brought a girlfriend to an NFL event without pretending to be my friend and without leaving our hotel room in different places. moments so no one would know.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, of all people, saw me out of the corner of his eye and stepped closer.
I was fortunate to establish a relationship with the commissioner before he rose to the top position. Who better than him to be the first person in the NFL to say it to? Even if he still couldn’t get the words out.
So, I grabbed my girlfriend’s hand and held it.
Heartbeats. Outside the body. Sweating hands. Holy shit. Paralyzed. My God, this is happening. You can do it. No, do not do it. OK, yes, do it. He He used to hit the kids who made fun of his gay brother; has been an ally for decades. You are going to survive this.
As he walked, I saw a smile on his face that I had never seen before. It was a warm, unusually large, fatherly smile that I will never forget.
He gave me a big hug, like a first-round player on draft night. We chatted about the show for a few minutes. I did it.
Many people think that you go out and then it’s “mission accomplished.” That couldn’t be further from the truth.
I have spent the nine years since that day coming out of the closet. Hang out with my colleagues, owners, head coaches, general managers, and others. Sometimes it is easy now; sometimes it is still very difficult.
I’ve spent the past nine years trying to figure out who I am in the office, having spent so much time being someone else – the person who wrote the first draft of this essay, which you will thankfully never see. Now I wear men’s clothing to the office, talk about my wife and son regularly, and wear my identity proudly on my sleeve wherever I go. What makes a person different makes them great right coach Gruden?
Many people in the LGBTQ + community are familiar with this quote from the writer Alexander Leon:
“Queer people don’t grow up like us, we grow up playing a version of ourselves that sacrifices authenticity to minimize humiliation and prejudice. The massive task of our adult lives is to unravel which parts of ourselves are really us and which parts we have created to protect ourselves. ”
Carl Nassib’s announcement that he is gay changes the world. It took 101 NFL seasons for this to happen.
It changes my world, but more importantly, the world of young children, especially athletes, who can finally see an active gay NFL player. Our players are amazing superheroes and humans. Now more children can imagine themselves as one of them.
Many came before Carl to heat the water for this time: David Kopay, Jerry Smith, Ray McDonald, Roy Simmons, Jeff Rohrer, Esera Tuaolo, Kwame Harris, Michael Sam, Wade Davis II, Ryan O’Callaghan, Ryan Russell, Dorien Bryant, Martin Jenkins, Brad Thorson and others. Their courage to get out, no matter when they did, is heroic.
Our office rightly calls all the players who previously played in the league, “NFL legends.” Those 14 men are my legends, and legends to all soccer fans in the LGBTQ + community.
I don’t know Carl, but I’m excited to meet him. I saw their facial expressions and body language in your output video. I saw freedom. I saw a calm. I saw a man who is who he is and also who just wants to play ball.
As Carl navigates these new waters of freedom and authenticity, I hope he quickly finds his true self and doesn’t have to copy, paste, and erase as much as some of us. I hope the guy who teaches his teammates about compound interest, index funds, and money management can do it while also talking about his boyfriend, husband, or partner. I hope that now he becomes the person and the player that he is and not the person and the player that he thought the world wanted to cheer for.
I used to think that soccer was for one type of person. It is not.
Carl Nassib is football. Lamar Jackson is soccer. Ron Rivera is soccer. Kim Pegula is soccer. Younghoe Koo is soccer. Jennifer King is soccer. Robert Saleh is football. The LGBTQ + community is soccer. We are on the field, we are fans, we are training, we are in the main office. We love the game and we are part of the game, as much as everyone else.
I had to go through this column several times to make sure I was true to my commitment to write this as myself. I found a lot of parts that made me uncomfortable and wondered if I should include them, which is exactly why I saved them.
I think this final draft is me.
It has been an incredible opportunity, a dream come true, and a few agonizing days to write the Quarterback column on Monday morning this week. (Writing is difficult!) Thank you for reading, and for more progress, in the NFL and on this planet, in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.