On Monday, Las Vegas Raiders defensive tackle Carl Nassib came out as the first active gay player in the NFL.
The announcement was met with praise all across the league and beyond.
Nassib’s former teammate, Steelers offensive tackle Zach Banner says “he’s not only a good person, but a great teammate.”
Talking to The Fan Morning Show on Tuesday, Banner says he’s “not built that way” when it comes to discrimination. “Honestly, sometimes I really don’t understand how you can hate somebody for who they love and what they do, so if he was in my locker room, I would totally and completely support him.”
Several of Nassib’s teammates have come out in support of him and Banner says it’s important that they do it publicly.
“The reason why that’s important, some people get pissed off about it but those are the same people that kinda really are holding us back and their mindset and their opinions are really irrelevant because it’s not so much supporting Carl, but it’s supporting kids like Carl you know who don’t have that outlet, who sometimes don’t have that support, who don’t have the financial means to be just fine living their lifestyle regardless if anyone cares about it, who are bullied, who are sometimes forced into suicide and to hurting themselves,” said Banner.
Banner adds that the bravery of Nassib is important because the NFL represents the United States and those who watch football. “Our audience is dealing with those troubles, so it’s good that we’re able to publically display how to handle those troubles.”
Banner knows it would be “dumb” for him to believe that every player in the league is comfortable with Nassib’s announcement but those who don’t approve of Nassib need to be educated.
“Let them realize just because this man is coming out and owing being gay, that doesn’t mean that he’s going to look at you, that he’s going to touch you, it’s actually pretty offensive if you think with that mindset,” said Banner.
“The only way that you can be empathic toward something is if you listen to the story and educate yourself and if you’re negligent to that then keep your opinions to yourself . . . that’s the thing that’s holding this country and this world back is not accepting things that are different and not accepting things that are okay.”
Banner adds they don’t have that kind of mindset in the Steelers locker room and if the subject of discrimination against anyone ever came up Banner would be the first one, “to shoot that down.”
Nassib said on Tuesday that he's making a donation of $100,000 to The Trevor Project, which aims to prevent suicides among LGBTQ youth.