Gay former NFL player Carl Nassib to announce Browns’ draft pick

Carl Nassib during his stint with the Browns.
Carl Nassib during his stint with the Browns.
Flickr/Erik Drost

Less than a year since out gay former NFL player Carl Nassib announced his retirement, he’s slated to make an appearance at the NFL draft to announce a draft pick for the team that drafted him eight years ago: the Cleveland Browns.

Nassib, a former linebacker and defensive end who in 2021 became the first active NFL player to come out as gay, will announce the Browns’ second round draft choice alongside Peggy Rajski, a film director and interim CEO of The Trevor Project, which is a non-profit focusing on suicide prevention among LGBTQ individuals. Nassib has been involved with The Trevor Project ever since he said he would donate $100,000 to the organization as part of his coming out announcement.

“Football is for everyone, and the NFL is committed to continuing efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion, including supporting the LGBTQ+ community through its work with The Trevor Project,” the NFL said, referring to Nassib and Rajski announcing the draft choice.

Nassib was originally drafted 65th overall in the third round of the 2016 NFL draft. He spent the first two seasons of his career in Cleveland before moving on to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Las Vegas Raiders — which was his team when he came out. He returned to Tampa for his final season in 2022.

The NFL draft, set to take place in Detroit, will begin on Thursday, April 24 at 8 p.m. and continue on Friday and Saturday. It will air on ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, and ESPN Deportes.

Nassib’s coming out story was historic given the lack of queer representation in the NFL and other major male professional sports. He was the first NFL player to come out since Michael Sam, a defensive end and linebacker who never played in a regular season game but earned the distinction of being the first out player to be drafted. Sam made headlines in the 2014 NFL draft when he kissed his then-partner Vito Cammisano immediately after he was selected in the seventh round by the Rams — then known as the St. Louis Rams. Former NFL defensive end Ryan Russell came out as bisexual five years later, but he was a free agent at the time and never signed with a team again. A total of 16 former NFL players have come out, according to Outsports.

Nassib announced his retirement on Sept. 6 of last year, saying he wanted to instead focus on his company, Rayze, which is an app to help non-profits connect with volunteers and organizations. Two of his best seasons came in 2018 and 2019 when he totaled 12.5 sacks, but he continued to play well after he came out — including in his first game as an out player when he recorded a sack and forced a fumble that led to his team’s game-winning field goal. During his final season, he registered 23 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and one fumble recovery.