NFL veteran Ryan Russell has come out as bisexual in a feature for ESPN.
The 27-year-old defensive end was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 but was cut after one season. He went on to play two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Russell missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury. He attempted to tryout in the offseason but didn’t land a position.
Russell told ESPN that after trying out he regretted not coming out as bisexual to the team.
“Have I lied to teammates, coaches, trainers, front-office executives and fans about who I am?” Russell told ESPN. “Not exactly. But withholding information is a form of deceit. And I want the next part of my career – and life – steeped in trust and honesty. During the season you spend more time with your team than with your own family; truth and honesty are the cornerstones of a winning culture. My truth is that I’m a talented football player, a damn good writer, a loving son, an overbearing brother, a caring friend, a loyal lover, and a bisexual man.”
He explained that growing up he struggled with identity issues and stereotypes surrounding being gay and straight.
“I always felt as though my existence slipped between the cracks of two worlds. I wasn’t flamboyant, tidy, or any other stereotypes kids are forced to construct their world around. I wasn’t straight, hyper-masculine or aggressive; I cried quite a bit, and, as a young black man, I didn’t fit the bill. I played football — so I put that in the straight column. I wrote poetry and romance stories — so I put that in the gay column,” he says.“Those two objectives shouldn’t be in conflict. But judging from the fact that there isn’t a single openly LGBTQ player in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball or the NHL, brings me pause. I want to change that – for me, for other athletes who share these common goals, and for the generations of LGBTQ athletes who will come next.”
Russell revealed he has dated men and women but was more careful about dating men, especially while in the NFL.
He recalled a time during his first season in the NFL when an unidentified blogger recognized Russell in the Instagram story of a man he was dating at the time. The blogger messaged Russell saying that he had figured out the pair were a couple.
“If the blogger outed me, I was sure that would kill my career, one that was supporting not just me, but my mother and grandfather,” Russell says. “He’d eradicate a childhood dream that was the product of years of work and sacrifice.”
Russell messaged the blogger back “reminding him that there were implications about his actions he didn’t fully understand.”
The blogger said he would do Russell a “favor” by not outing him.
“Let that sink into your brain: Even though openly LGBTQ people are thriving in every area of public life — politics, entertainment, the top corporations in America — they are so invisible in pro sports that a gossip blogger is doing a favor for a bisexual football player by not disclosing that he happens to date men,” Russell said.
Now, Russel just wants to live his life openly.
“Today, I have two goals: returning to the NFL, and living my life openly. I want to live my dream of playing the game I’ve worked my whole life to play, and being open about the person I’ve always been,’ Russell says.