Prepare to see a lot more Las Vegas Raiders No. 94 jerseys out there. Since Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib became the first openly gay active player in the NFL, his jersey has skyrocketed to the best-selling item on the league’s official retail site.
The surge in sales occurred less than 24 hours after Nassib came out, coinciding with an outpouring of support from sports fans, prominent LGBT groups and even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Fanatics, the NFL’s official e-commerce partner, said Nassib’s has been the top-selling NFL jersey on Monday and Tuesday across the company’s network of online stores.
Nassib made the big announcement via video message on Instagram Monday, saying, “I just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest. I really have the best life, I’ve got the best family, friends and job a guy could ask for. I’m a pretty private person so I hope you guys know that I’m really not doing this for attention. I just think that representation and visibility are so important.”
He also added that he’d be donating $100,000 to The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to the LGBTQ+ community. The NFL has since announced that it will match his pledge.
This is not the first time progressiveness has (literally) paid off in football. In 2014, Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team. Although Sam was the 249th overall pick in that year’s draft, his courage as an “openly proud gay man” sent his rookie jersey to the top of the sales rankings, rendering him second to only rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Although Nassib is the first to come out as an active player, a number of NFL stars have come forward with their sexual identity following retirement, including Colton Underwood (of “Bachelor” fame), Ryan Russell and David Kopay.