TAMPA, Fla. — A week ago, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to publicly come out. The sports world quickly stood behind him and showed its support. A Tampa Bay area coach is reflecting on his own story and shares what Nassib’s announcement means for LGBT visibility.
“I just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest,” Nassib said in a post on social media.
Mark Johnson also knows that freeing feeling.
“I just started coming out to family and friends first, and then it was getting to the point where things needed to be better for me overall, and I knew that I was going to have to take the next step and come out to everybody at the University of Tampa and just do something much more public,” said Johnson.
Johnson is an assistant coach for the University of Tampa baseball team. In 2017, he took the next step by coming out to his fellow coaches and team.
“Everybody was very welcoming and happy and supportive, which is everything that someone would want in that situation,” said Johnson.
Johnson says it was exciting for the NFL and the sports world when Nassib shared his story, acknowledging that not many players do so when they’re still in the game. He says Nassib is a great role model to have out there for younger people to see his story and know they can also have a place in sports.
“It’s a really big deal to have that visibility and to be open and inviting into certain conversations where it's okay to be who you are no matter what you do,” said Johnson. “A lot of times in sport, you just don’t see it. It’s very important that he did that, and hopefully, more people start to do that to send the right message that it’s okay to be who you are,” said Johnson.