Ryan Russell, former defensive end in the NFL, has revealed in a telling video posted to ESPN that he is a bisexual man. Russell reveals this news as he intends to make a comeback into the NFL since last playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017.
“Have I lied to teammates, coaches, trainers, front-office executives and fans about who I am? 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.”
Russell, who was a fifth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys is now 27-years-old. He was drafted out of Purdue in 2015, but following the Cowboys historically loaded draft class in 2016, he was cut after just one year. After landing with the Bucs, Russell would spend two seasons in Tampa Bay where he appeared in 14 games, had 21 tackles, and three sacks. Following the 2017 season, he was cut from the team, he would have shoulder surgery during that offseason, and in 2018 he was signed to the Buffalo Bills, but was released at the end of training camp.
When speaking about wanting to live his life open, and play the game he loves, he did not mince words.
“Those two objectives shouldn’t be in conflict,” Russell wrote. “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.”
When Russell spoke about his brief stint in the NFL, he discussed his struggle with being true to himself, while also trying to make an impact for a team playing football. Russell says he began to compromise himself in an attempt to fit into his surroundings. He was hiding who he truly was.
As for the PR, and public perception side of football, Russell doesn’t think it would be a huge deal in this day and age.
“I don’t believe this is a big ask in 2019, I can tell you from experience that as long as a teammate contributes to success on the field and in the locker room, NFL players aren’t concerned about who their defensive linemen date. I’ve never been suspended or a distraction for my conduct off the field. The NFL is a multibillion-dollar entertainment entity with the power to create working conditions that allow LGBTQ people to perform their jobs like everyone else.”
Michael Sam is one other notable NFL player to have come out as a member of the LGBTQ community. Michael Sam was the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL, but Sam never played in an NFL game. Russell looks to be the first, and only openly LBGTQ player to play in an NFL game.