Gus Kenworthy believes reaction to Carl Nassib coming out wasn’t all positive for the LGBTQ+ community

Star of FOX’s Special Forces: World's Toughest Test hopes to see a more inclusive environment in the NFL, all sports

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Gus Kenworthy of Team Great Britain during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Gus Kenworthy of Team Great Britain during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Image: Getty Images

Gus Kenworthy knows a thing or two about breaking boundaries in sports for LGBTQ+ athletes. He was the first openly gay X Games athlete and alongside good friend and figure skater Adam Rippon, he was half of the first openly gay duo to represent the United States in the Winter Olympics at the 2018 games in PyeongChang, South Korea. And as the season finale of Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test airs this Wednesday on FOX, with Kenworthy as a participant and only LGBTQ+ representative on the show, he took time to speak with Deadspin this week to share his thoughts on other noteworthy accomplishments for the LGBTQ+ community in sports.

In June 2021, Carl Nassib posted a message through his Instagram account sharing that he was gay and became the first active NFL player to do so. In 2014, Michael Sam came close to accomplishing that feat after being selected in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams. He was released as part of the team’s final cut to a 53-man roster and spent time on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad, but didn’t get his chance under the NFL’s brightest lights. Nassib had already spent five years in the league prior to coming out publicly.

“It would be amazing if we were in a place, and I hope that we get to a place where it’s like ‘Who cares what someone’s sexuality is?’ And I feel like oftentimes you see that response under articles about Carl Nassib coming out or me coming out or whoever it was when they came out. And ultimately, that’s actually not supportive,” Kenworthy told Deadspin. “It sounds supportive to be like ‘Who cares? It’s 2022, it’s 2023. We don’t care about sexuality.’ But actually, you do and that’s the reason that there hasn’t been someone that’s out.

“And so to see someone take a brave stand like that, in an industry, the NFL, where it’s not necessarily conducive to that. There’s a lot of homophobic language that gets used in the locker room and the people that are watching are potentially from more conservative, rural places that aren’t as supportive of LGBTQ rights, it’s really amazing. And I think that when athletes come out, especially the first athlete in that sport, we have to really uplift them and tell their story and amplify their voice. It kind of creates a beacon of hope for the next generation, for any gay kids in that sport or gay kids in places that they feel like they can be themselves. It’s like a sign that they can and that someone has and it gives them footsteps to follow in. So I think it’s super important.”


Kenworthy’s advice to create a more inclusive atmosphere for future LGBTQ+ youth would be for everyone to watch their actions and words more carefully. He was also quick to point out that hatred and bigotry of any kind shouldn’t be tolerated in locker rooms, not only hate against those who are gay.

“I know that even like my friends and people I grew up with when I was a kid would refer to anything that was bad as gay. and use the F slur and say things,” Kenworthy said. “And after I came out, it changed. And also a lot of them are like ‘I had no idea. I would have never said this If I knew.’ And it shouldn’t take that. It shouldn’t take knowing someone that’s this, that, or the other to change your rhetoric. But sometimes it does. I would just encourage anybody to be mindful of the words they’re using.”


While competing on Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test was much tougher for Kenworthy than his appearance on The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros in 2017, he said he’d be open to competing on another season of the show if FOX asked him to do so. Kenworthy hasn’t read much about what people think about the show or his appearance on it, admitting he likely doesn’t have thick enough skin to be in the public eye. Yet, he’s happy to be the LGBTQ+ representative on the show.

“It’s just kind of cool to see queer people doing anything in the public eye,” Kenworthy said. “For so long, there was a lack of representation. So to see a gay man on national TV doing military Special Ops training, I think is exciting. I would love to see more diversity, inclusion in the next season. I would love to see more LGBTQ people cast and prove themselves because I know my community to be super tough and I think that they’ve shown that.”