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Carl Nassib, NFL’s first openly gay active player, takes personal day from Raiders amid turmoil

Carl Nassib speaks after a game last month. (Rick Scuteri/AP)

Carl Nassib, the NFL’s first openly gay active player, was excused from team activities Wednesday with the Las Vegas Raiders in the aftermath of Jon Gruden’s resignation following revelations that the coach used racist, homophobic and misogynistic language in emails during an approximately seven-year span before his return to coaching in 2018.

General Manager Mike Mayock said that he and Nassib, a defensive lineman who announced in June that he is gay, spoke several times Tuesday and Wednesday and were scheduled to meet later Wednesday.

“He requested a personal day today,” Mayock said at a news conference. “He just said he’s got a lot to process. There’s a lot that’s been going on the last few days. And, of course, we support that.”

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Mayock, in the first extensive public comments by a team executive since Gruden’s resignation Monday night, said that he, owner Mark Davis and interim coach Rich Bisaccia addressed Raiders players at a team meeting Wednesday.

“We’re going forward,” Mayock said. “We’re moving forward. We respect, obviously, their rights and abilities to comment on the situation in any way they want, and they’re intelligent enough young men that they’ll do that.”

Mayock said the Raiders organization historically has stood for diversity, pointing to the coaching tenures of Tom Flores and Art Shell and the executive career of Amy Trask. The team, he said, is doing its best to help players who were offended and affected by Gruden’s words.

“I’ve talked to several of the Black players,” Mayock said. “We’ve reached out to a bunch of players, Black and White. Everybody’s got emotions and feelings. I’ve talked to some of the people in my department that are Black — my director of pro scouting [Dwayne Joseph] — and I just said: ‘D.J., I can’t put myself in your shoes. Help me.’ We’ve spent a pretty good amount of time trying to help these guys and talk with these guys, not talk at them but with them.

“For Carl, let’s be honest, he’s a community of one that’s openly gay. We do have a large community of African American players. And we’re trying to do everything we can for that community as well, obviously. It started there. Nobody’s forgetting that. I’m trying to work with everyone, and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Tight end Darren Waller expressed support for Nassib, saying at a news conference later Wednesday: “He’s pretty much a lone wolf when it comes to that. Nobody should be able to tell him how to feel. Nobody should be able to tell him how to grieve. And he deserves to take time for himself because that’s a lot to process…. I respect him wanting to take his space and be able to come back clearheaded.”

Mayock worked closely with Gruden and said that he, too, has been affected.

“I do have emotion, and I am sad,” Mayock said. “To be honest with you, I’m sad for the whole Gruden family, not just Jon. But at the end of the day, we’re all accountable for our actions.”

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Mayock said that Davis “wanted to be fair to Jon Gruden and he wanted to be fair to the Raiders organization.” Gruden coached in Sunday’s loss to the Chicago Bears in Las Vegas after the NFL delivered the emails to the Raiders — and following Friday’s initial public revelations about the racist language that Gruden used in a 2011 email denigrating DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association.

“Mark Davis really is the one that was dealing with that,” Mayock said. “And I think he felt like — and I don’t want to speak for Mark — but there was an awful lot of due diligence that had to go on, on his side of this. … Mark was dealing with all the email stuff. We were trying to prepare for a football game. And then when we came out of the game and the rest of it came out, Mark was already in the middle of his due diligence. I think he was trying to figure it all out. And, again, I know what the guy stands for. He was trying to do the right thing.”

Davis told ESPN on Wednesday that he had no comment, adding: “Ask the NFL. They have all the answers.”

Bisaccia said he will “always be appreciative” of coaching on Gruden’s staff, but added: “We all have a responsibility here to have to be accountable for our words and our actions.”

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said he had conflicting feelings.

“I’m sick about it,” Carr said. “I’ve got a lot of emotions: angry, sick, upset, mad, frustrated, all those things, empathy, whatever. No one has a book on how to handle all this.”

Carr said he had sadness for all involved, while balancing his disdain for Gruden’s actions with his personal fondness for Gruden.

“I don’t talk that way,” Carr said. “My kids sure as heck will never talk that way. It’s hard because I love the man so much.”

Mayock said Raiders players must demonstrate their professionalism as they get back to work.

“What I said to the players this morning is that there is a spectrum of opinions out there about Jon Gruden, from total condemnation to full empathy and everything in between,” Mayock said. “And what I said to the players basically is that you’re entitled to your position. You’re entitled to your opinion on that. But ultimately what we’ve preached since the day I’ve been here with Coach Gruden and just about every other team in the world preaches is the team has got to come first at some point.”

The Raiders play Sunday at Denver.

“There was a gamut of emotions in the room about how they feel,” Mayock said. “And each of them is entitled to that emotion. But I really do believe that going forward what you’re going to see is a team that’s 3-2 and saying we’ve got to go play Denver and all — every single one — of our goals is still out there.”

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