Coming out in sport: NFL's Nassib adds momentum

American football player Carl Nassib made history on Monday by becoming the first NFL player to come out as gay during his career.

– NBA, NFL –

Openly gay players in US team sports have been very rare.

In basketball, the NBA’s Jason Collins in 2013 became the first player in a major US team sport to declare he was gay, an announcement that had a big impact.

A year later, Michael Sam was drafted by NFL team the St Louis Rams after coming out, but he never played a regular season game.

– Tennis, Rugby –

In tennis, Amelie Mauresmo came out at the Australian Open in 1999 at the age of only 19.

It caused a storm of media interest, and she posed on the front cover of Paris Match with her partner. 

The reaction Martina Navratilova received when she came out in 1981 was very different. The Czechoslovakia-born star says her decision cost her millions of dollars in corporate sponsorships and endorsements.

Among men, there is no known example in tennis.

In the macho world of rugby, few have come out, except Gareth Thomas, the former captain of Wales who announced he was gay while he was still playing for the national squad.

– Swimming, football – 

Ian “Thorpedo” Thorpe, the winner of five swimming gold medals at the Olympics and 11 world championships, came out in 2014, a year after hanging up his trunks.

In his autobiography “This is Me” published two years earlier, Thorpe had denied rumours he was gay.

Diving star Greg Louganis, medallist at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, also came out years after he finished competing. 

Britain’s Justin Fashanu became the first professional football player to come out in  1990. He took his own life eight years later.

Former German international footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger said he came out in 2014 “to help young homosexual footballers”.

In athletics, Olympic 400-metre hurdles champion Kerron Clement came out in October 2019.

– Women out in front –

It has become more common for women athletes to come out in recent years.

French goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin posted pictures of her girlfriend on social media late last year.

American women’s striker Megan Rapinoe is perhaps the most-high profile gay athlete still playing, after coming out in 2012. 

Five of the players, including Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger, as well as the coach of the 2019 World Cup winning US team are lesbians. 

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