Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib, who became the first openly gay active NFL player in June, helped design custom, rainbow cleats to raise awareness and money for the LGBTQ community.
In participation with the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats fundraiser, Nassib created the rainbow cleats this season to spotlight the LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization the Trevor Project.
As part of the campaign, players can custom design their own cleats to raise awareness for the nonprofit organizations of their choice. Players then auction off the cleats to raise money for the groups.
Cyd Zeigler, LGBTQ advocate and co-founder of the LGBTQ sports site Outsports.com, celebrated Nassib’s support, conceding that visible support for the LGBTQ community is a rarity among NFL players.
“I have been, for a couple of years, pointing to the fact that no NFL players ever choose LGBTQ causes and it’s a real source of disappointment,” Zeigler said of the cleats campaign, which began in 2016. “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.”
Before this year, Miami Dolphins receiver Preston Williams was the only NFL player out of hundreds to highlight LGBTQ causes. Williams dedicated his cleats in 2019 to the Miami-based LGBTQ advocacy group Pridelines.
Nassib’s cleats featured the Trevor Project’s name printed in bright orange and the number to its suicide prevention lifeline: 1-866-488-7386. He previously donated $100,000 to the group when came out earlier this year.
But Nassib was not the only player to support LGBTQ causes this year. Cleveland Browns fullback and LGBTQ ally Johnny Stanton, whose uncle is gay, created rainbow cleats in support of Athlete Ally, which promotes LGBTQ inclusion in sports.
“No one should feel unwelcome on the field or the court. If just one person being an ally can help them feel more comfortable, then I’m happy to be that person,” Stanton said in a statement the NFL shared on Twitter last week.
Cancer research organizations picked up the most support — 17 percent — in this year’s cleats campaign, according to a breakdown of the causes on the NFL’s website.
Nonetheless, support from Nassib and Stanton added to this year’s historic record of LGBTQ inclusion in sports.
The Tokyo Summer Games made history for its record number of LGBTQ competitors and for welcoming several of the Olympics’ first openly transgender athletes. At least 186 out athletes from around the world were present at this year’s Olympics, more than triple the number at the 2016 Rio Summer Games, according to Outsports.
And aside from the NFL, the NHL also welcomed its first openly gay active player when Nashville Predators’ Luke Prokop came out in July.
“This is a historic year for LGBTQ athletes because of the LGBTQ athletes — not because of the allies, not because of the people standing beside us,” Zeigler said.
Follow NBC Out on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram