Kevin Maxen

It was quite the Super Bowl for Kevin Maxen. In the lead-up to this year’s game, the out gay NFL coach was sitting on a stage, speaking alongside out former players such as Carl Nassib, R.K. Russell and Jeff Rohrer.

The setting was Night of Pride, an NFL event meant to promote inclusivity in football. As a strength coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Maxen was the perfect person to take part. He made history last year when he came out, becoming the first out gay male coach in the NFL (Katie Sowers, who coached in Super Bowl LIV, was the first out female coach). Since then, he’s experienced nothing but support, from ownership down to the fans in the stands.

His decision to come out wasn’t easy, and was years in the making. One of the key moments came in June 2022, when Nassib came out publicly. A star college linebacker, Maxen reached out to Seth DeValve, an ex-NFL tight end who’s from Connecticut, his home state. Maxen asked DeValve if he could get him in touch with Nassib.

When the two starting talking, Maxen began to develop what he refers to as his “Bernie Mac mentality.”

“F’ em!”

Maxen’s announcement was applauded, and elicited praise from Jaguars owner Shad Khan. But the best part for Maxen wasn’t the attention or accolades.

It’s not that nothing changed. When he introduced his boyfriend to other coaches on staff, everyone just carried on.

“It was a relief, more than anything. You still kind of have that hesitation, looking over your shoulder,” he told Queerty. “But you know, he’s been around a lot of the coaches, a lot of the players. He’s been at events, just in a different capacity. Just to have that transparency, where he could be a part of it, it meant a lot. It was good, because nothing really changed. I was still Kevin, and he was still Nick. It was business as usual.”

The NFL emphasizes LGBTQ+ inclusivity, as evidenced by Nassib’s role in the NFL Draft. The ex-defensive end announced the Cleveland Browns’ second-round pick with a representative from The Trevor Project. The NFL has donated $100,000 to the organization each since year since Nassib came out.

With Pride merchandise and LGBTQ+ initiatives, the NFL is upping its game in the rainbow space. But there’s still a dearth of visibility. There’s only been 16 out gay and bi players in the league’s 104-year history.

That’s why someone like Maxen is so important. He shows that you can be gay in the NFL, and just fit in. As Maxen goes forward, he wants to highlight that message for young people.

“There needs to be more positive stories and messages of hope and progress, rather than ‘be fearful’ and ‘everybody hates us.’ That’s not true. At least in my experience, you make really good relationships with people. You find yourself in situations where you’re around good people. Then it just kind of works out,” he said.

“I think the coolest thing is seeing the growth of people who you do have a little hesitation to tell. But if you treat them with respect, they’ll treat you with respect. But just going back to advice, ‘Be you.’ Before being Black, before being gay, before being Jewish, before being a strength coach, I’m Kevin Maxen. I don’t want to be anything else than what he is,” he added.

We wouldn’t want Maxen to be anything else, either. He promises to make the most of his platform for years to come!

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