The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed defensive end Carl Nassib — pro football’s first openly gay, active player — bringing him back to where he delivered two of his most productive seasons, officials said Tuesday.
Nassib, then of the Las Vegas Raiders, came out a little more than a year ago and made one of the NFL’s most memorable early season plays, sacking the Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson and forcing a fumble in a dramatic Monday Night Football victory for the Silver & Black.
Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles lauded Nassib’s ability to stop the run and pressure the quarterback.
“He has a lot of versatility, he brings a lot of energy, he brings a lot of toughness,” Bowles told reporters Tuesday. “He understands the (team’s) system. He was comfortable in it, so we look forward to him coming here.”
The Raiders elected not to bring back Nassib for 2022, opting for a more cost-efficient edge rusher. He would have made $7.75 million this season had he returned to Las Vegas.
This signing by Tampa Bay could be as crucial a moment in the history of gay acceptance within sports as Nassib’s coming out last year, according to Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports.com.
For a team, especially a high-profile Super Bowl contender like Tampa, to sign an openly gay player is “huge,” Ziegler wrote.
The acquisition shows that Nassib’s on-the-field production trumps any lingering homophobia, according to Ziegler, who contended that“people claiming that men’s pro sports broadly hate gay athletes (and yes, this is still a claim) simply have no leg to stand on.”