The Las Vegas Raiders are releasing Carl Nassib, the defensive end who made history last year as the first openly gay active player in NFL history.
Nassib, a six-year veteran, has played for the Raiders for two seasons, generating four sacks, 49 tackles and an interception, according to NFL.com, the official league website. It reported that the decision to cut Nassib, who had an annual base salary of $7.75 million, was a financial one. Cyd Zeigler, a co-founder of Outsports, an LGBTQ sports site, agreed.
“Carl had a big paycheck coming this year, and they just made a determination that they wanted to find somebody cheaper,” Zeigler said. “That’s the economics of the NFL.”
Nassib, 28, signed a three-year free agent deal worth over $25 million in March 2020, with $16.75 million guaranteed, ESPN reported. Cutting him will save the Raiders $8 million in this year’s salary cap starting in June.
Zeigler said he does not think Nassib’s sexual orientation had anything to do with the decision.
“The Raiders, the NFL, have demonstrated that they support this man as a gay man,” Zeigler said, adding that Nassib’s successful record will help him quickly find a new team.
This month, the Raiders matched Nassib’s donation of $100,000 to The Trevor Project, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youths. Nassib also backed the nonprofit group publicly in his coming out video on Instagram last year.
The NFL and the Raiders did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Zeigler said Nassib’s solid performance last season — including a game-saving play that led the Raiders to a win against the Baltimore Ravens — helped break down barriers for LGBTQ athletes.
“Major men’s sports are far more accepting than anyone gives them credit, and to me, Carl shined a light on that,” Zeigler said. “Carl was warmly embraced publicly by the NFL, the teams, the players. He had an absolutely thrilling end where he sealed the game for the Raiders in his first game as an out player, and all of that just inspires other young football players to see that they can be out in their sport, they can compete at a high level, and they can be accepted.”
Former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan, who came out as gay in June 2017, after his time in the league, said Nassib’s career demonstrates that players do not need to compromise their LGBTQ identities in sports.
“Carl’s a modern-day trailblazer in the NFL,” said O’Callaghan, who played for the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. “What he’s been able to accomplish answered a lot of questions for other closeted players, whether they can come out and be themselves and still have a successful career.
“He’s going to end up on another team. He had a great year,” O’Callaghan added. “It’s definitely not the end.”
This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.