Carl Nassib, the only NFL player to come out as gay while active and signed to a team, has helped design rainbow cleats to raise awareness of the LGBTQ+ community and funds for the Trevor Project, which assists LGBTQ+ young people in crisis.
Nassib did the design as part of the My Cause My Cleats campaign, in which players wear cleats that spotlight nonprofit organizations and then auction the shoes off to benefit the groups, NBC News reports.
Nassib, a defensive end with the Las Vegas Raiders, came out in June in a video post on Instagram. He made a $100,000 donation to the Trevor Project at the time, and the NFL matched it.
Players wore their My Cause cleats in games played December 3, but Nassib was out injured. His cleats were featured in a Raiders tweet, though, sporting the Trevor Project’s name and the number of its suicide prevention hotline, (866) 488-7386.
One other player, Cleveland Browns fullback Johnny Stanton, chose to benefit an LGBTQ+ organization with his cleats — Athlete Ally, which works for LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports. Stanton told Outsports he had a gay uncle, Patrick Stanton, who was an elite-level swimmer and never felt comfortable coming out in the sports environment. “I don’t want the athletes coming out today to feel like they can’t be themselves,” Johnny Stanton said.
Before this year, only one player had supported an LGBTQ+ cause through the cleats campaign, that being Miami Dolphins wide receiver Preston Williams, who promoted Miami LGBTQ+ group Pridelines in 2019.
The NFL has held the campaign since 2016. Cyd Zeigler, cofounder of Outsports, expressed disappointment that so few players have chosen LGBTQ+ causes. “People talk about the importance of allies and I say all the time, that we can't wait for allies to show up, that LGBTQ people have to push for our own visibility and our own equality,” he told NBC News.