Carl Nassib, the NFL’s Only Openly Gay Player, is a Huge Swiftie
When Taylor Swift dropped the cover art for her tenth studio album, Midnights, Swifties dutifully mobilized to spread the word. Among them was Carl Nassib, the defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who came out last summer in a quiet but groundbreaking Instagram post, making him the NFL’s only openly gay player, and the only active openly gay male athlete in any of the four major American sports leagues. It’s a distinction Nassib has managed with aplomb; for Pride Month, he partnered with the Trevor Project, matching all donations up to $100,000, and earlier this year he launched an app called Rayze, which matches would-be volunteers to nearby nonprofits. He is, by admission, as rabid a Swiftie as he is a trailblazer and menace to opposing quarterbacks. The day Swift announced her new album, Nassib enthusiastically reposted the news on his own Instagram story. “The grip this chick has on me is relentless,” he wrote. Now that Midnights is out, we called Nassib the morning after his Bucs played on Thursday Night Football to hear his take on the album, his origin story as a fan, and whether or not his teammate Tom Brady is a Swiftie.
JAKE NEVINS: Hey, Carl. How’s it going?
CARL NASSIB: Hey, Jake. I’m doing great. How are you?
NEVINS: I’m good. I’m thrilled to be on the phone with you. And I’m sorry about the loss last night. Thursday games are tough. But you were playing my team, the Ravens.
NASSIB: I appreciate it.
NEVINS: So, I gleaned from your Instagram stories that you are a big Swiftie. Tell me where your Swiftie journey began. Was there a song or an album that kind of opened the floodgates?
NASSIB: The first album I ever heard was Speak Now, when I was in high school. I’d never heard of Taylor Swift. And all my buddies, my whole friend group, we were all listening to “Long Live.” And I was like, “Oh, man, this is a really, really good song.” And then I heard her songs at prom, and all that stuff. And I was like, “Man, she’s awesome.” So my friends and I went to see her on tour for Speak Now. And then a few years later, I saw her on tour for Red. And then a few years back, I saw her at the Reputation tour.
NEVINS: Oh, so you’re a hardcore, card-carrying Swiftie.
NASSIB: Oh, yeah. Primetime. One-thousand percent.
NEVINS: Is Taylor ever played in the locker room?
NASSIB: On my headphones, yeah.
NEVINS: Have you ever heard Tom Brady [Nassib’s teammate] play Taylor?
NASSIB: I have not.
NEVINS: I wonder if there are Swifties throughout the NFL that we don’t know about.
NASSIB: One-thousand percent. I think that there are Swifties everywhere. I can’t even count how many people came up to me in my building, and amongst my friends, to ask me about the album because they all know I’m a diehard T-Swift fan and my response has been, “It’s perfection.”
NEVINS: Well, let’s get into the new album. What were your expectations? Did you think she was going back to pop?
NASSIB: I was kind of expecting an album like this. I didn’t expect her to go straight back to like, the 1989 vibe. But I also didn’t expect her to stick with the slower Folklore and Evermore vibe. I think she just hit the nail on the head. It’s the perfect amount of pop. I don’t necessarily know specific genres and terminology, and I don’t want to sound stupid.
NEVINS: Oh, I’m not a music expert. But I guess she moves between, like, country, pop and, I guess Folklore is what they’d call “alternative.”
NASSIB: Right, so I wasn’t expecting full pop, but I wasn’t expecting it to be slow, either. Somewhere in the middle, and I think she hit the nail on the head.
NEVINS: Do you have any favorite songs?
NASSIB: I was trying to pick my favorite and it’s just freaking hard.
NEVINS: Okay, top three.
NASSIB: “Midnight Rain” is definitely the one I listen to most right now. “Karma” is awesome. And then “Maroon.” So that’s my top three.
NEVINS: So, I guess the whole conceit of the album was that each song tells the story of a sleepless night in her life, or something that keeps her awake at night. What is Carl Nassib thinking about at midnight?
NASSIB: Oh, that’s a great question. That’s so cute. I don’t really feel—for me, this is the sort of album you’d play when you’re at a dinner party. Where, with Folklore and Evermore, that’s what I’d play when I’m by myself and in my feelings. So there are definitely more fun songs on this album. But it’s only been one week. I feel like, with Taylor’s albums, they have to marinate for a month for you to really get all the lyrics and the ideas, stuff like that. My opinion will probably be more specific with some time.
NEVINS: Yeah, people have asked me for my favorite and I’m like, I could tell you this week but it’ll probably be different in a month, and different again six months from that.
NASSIB: Yeah, I totally agree.
NEVINS: Swifties love to rank things. So, what’s your favorite Taylor album?
NASSIB: Great question. Oh shit, this is tough, man. Wait, I have to remember not to curse in these interviews. Man, getting asked your favorite Taylor Swift album is like getting asked who’s your favorite sibling.
NEVINS: If it helps, I’m gonna go with Red.
NASSIB: I’m gonna go with Folklore.
NEVINS: I was preparing for this interview and started to wonder what position Taylor would play if she played football. She’s kind of tall and lanky, maybe she’d be a shutdown cornerback. But I’ll put the question to you.
NASSIB: I definitely don’t call Taylor lanky. That assaults my character. But that’s a really fun question. I don’t know how athletic she is. But she’s tall, so maybe she’d be a great linebacker.
NEVINS: Outside or inside?
NASSIB: Inside linebacker. I think she would shock people.
NEVINS: Okay. I like that. So, obviously there’s a Taylor song for a litany of moods. But when do you find yourself turning to her music?
NASSIB: I listen to her all day, every day. I can’t remember the last day of my life where I didn’t listen to her. It’s every morning on the way to work. Every workout that I do on my own. Yeah, she’s my favorite artist of all time. She doesn’t have any skips, man. She keeps coming out with amazing music, time and time again. I feel bad for the people that have to drive with me when I’m giving my “All Too Well” 10-minute performance.
NEVINS: Oh, wow. That’s something people need to see.
NASSIB: That would expose me. That would be very embarrassing for me.
NEVINS: You’ve met her, right?
NASSIB: I did. I met her in Cleveland. And it was such a funny story. So I met her and her parents and they’re the loveliest people of all time. I was playing for the Browns. She was playing in Cleveland and I got to meet her before the show, she did a big meet-and-greet and there’s a bunch of other people there, too. And then she went on and killed it. It was so interesting that she could, you know, be so nice to all these people, she had no idea who they were, and interact with them, and then go perform in front of tens of thousands of people. She’s dynamite.
NEVINS: Well, hopefully she’ll play the Halftime Show soon. And it’ll be Ravens vs. Bucs.
NASSIB: There was a rumor she was playing the Halftime Show and my Instagram inbox was just flooded with messages about how she might do it. That would be incredible.
NEVINS: It would be kind of impossible to figure out the setlist. Maybe, since you guys already played this week, if you have time this weekend you can send me your dream setlist for Taylor’s Halftime Show.
NASSIB: It’d be really awesome. I don’t know what I’d choose, but she would crush it.
NEVINS: Well, I’ll let you go. Enjoy your weekend. Lovely talking to you. And I hope the rest of the season goes really well, better than last night.
NASSIB: Yeah, absolutely. You have a great day. It was a pleasure talking to you.