'This is a milestone,' people in Maritime gay community say after NFL player's historic video
SYDNEY, N.S. -- Members of the sporting community and the LGBTQ2S+ community in the Maritimes agree that NFL player Carl Nassib's announcement is an historic first -- one they hope will open doors in sport for many others going forward.
It was a short video, but one that will leave a lasting impact.
Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib took to Instagram Monday and announced he is gay, making him the first active National Football League player to do so.
"I was really excited," said Kris Burley, a retired Olympic gymnast, who is originally from Truro, N.S. who spent part of his career based in Fredericton.
As a gay former athlete himself, he says it took courage for Nassib to come out like this during his playing career.
"He did it on his terms," Burley said. "He was clearly comfortable with his message. I thought he was really articulate and I really love the fact that this was obviously a choice that he made."
Peter Steele is a former chair of Pride Cape Breton.
He says while a public figure coming out is nothing new, a man playing a stereotypically 'macho' sport like pro football is.
"This is a milestone," Steele said. "That's something men can relate to. So when women come out, men are not necessarily going to relate to that. If they're an actor, a singer, they're not necessarily going to relate to that. They're going to relate to a football player."
Lou Velocci is acting president of Football Nova Scotia.
"I was glad to see that others around him are rallying around that, I think it's great," Velocci said.
He says while a lot of work has been done over the years towards inclusivity in the sport.
This should only encourage more youth that the game is for everyone.
"I think it's great that people are coming out," Velocci said. "And you know, I think you'd have a lot more people that are happy if they had the opportunity to play football. Versus worrying about whether or not they fit the 'stereotype' of whatever."
Steele says there are closeted people in all walks of life -- including pro sports -- and that he'd like to see more athletes come out.
"You don't realize until they actually tell you. So kudos to Carl for doing this," Steele said.
Burley says the support Nassib has received shows things have changed a lot since his own competitive sporting days back in the 1990s. While there's still a ways to go, LGBTQ2S+ youth in sport have gotten an important message.
"That any young kid could look up to Carl and say 'Well, I want to be a football player,' or 'I want to be a hockey player,'" Burley said. "And if you're gay, that's OK."
Nassib made his post during Pride Month, planting the seed for acceptance with a brief -- but brave -- video that has a lot of people talking.
"But until then, I'm going to do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that's accepting," Nassib said.
It's also worth noting that there has never been an openly gay National Hockey League player, though Peter Steele predicts that after this trailblazing event in the NFL, we'll see something similar from an NHLer sometime in the not too distant future.