Art Shell has been expecting an announcement like Carl Nassib’s for some time. In fact, the Raiders legendary offensive tackle, former head coach and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a bit surprised that it has taken this long for an active player to come out as gay.
Yet, Shell is not surprised that the player wears the Silver and Black.
“The Raiders have always been different, and all about inclusion,” Shell said in an interview with Silver and Black Pride on Tuesday. “It makes sense that a Raiders’ player is the first to do so. I’m really happy for him and want him to know that he will always be a Raider and we will always love and support him.”
The two-time Super Bowl champion is living evidence of the Raiders’ rich history of being pioneers of change. Shell — who was a Raiders tackle from 1968 to 1982 — became the first Black head coach in the NFL in 1989.
The late Raiders’ owner Al Davis was known for being a champion for all of his employees, regardless of race or gender. In addition to Shell, Tom Flores became the first Latino head coach in the NFL with the Raiders, and Davis made Amy Trask the first female executive in the league.
Shell, 74, said Tuesday that he thinks Al Davis, who died in 2011, would be ecstatic that a player on his team came out.
“There is not a doubt in my mind that Al would be happy about this,” Shell said. “He would have had nothing negative to say about it. He would have been thrilled that one of his own players was comfortable enough to do this.”
Raiders’ DE Carl Nassib is the top-selling NFL jersey across the @Fanatics’ network both yesterday and today.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 22, 2021
Shell said he thinks Davis and other players on the team during his era would have accepted a gay teammate because the Raiders were such a close-knit family and everyone was encouraged to be their true selves.
“We heard things that a couple or a few of the guys may have been (gay) over the years,” Shell said. “It was a different time and things have changed, but I wish those guys would have been comfortable. But it’s all their personal decision ... I’m just glad this young man feels so comfortable. This is good for football and for all of sports.”