Former NFL defensive end Ryan Russell, who last played for the Buccaneers in 2017, penned an as-told-to article in which he revealed that he is bisexual.
“Have I lied to teammates, coaches, trainers, front-office executives and fans about who I am?” Russell wrote in an article posted Thursday to ESPN.com. “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.
“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, 27, was a fifth-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys out of Purdue in 2015 but was later cut after just one season. He latched on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played two seasons (2016-17). He eventually started seven of his 14 appearances in his final year in Tampa, collecting 17 tackles and two sacks.
He had shoulder surgery after the 2017 offseason and sat out the entire 2018 campaign after being released by the Buffalo Bills before the start of the season.
“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.”
Russell spoke of his first seasons in the NFL and how he grappled with being true to himself while pursuing his professional football career. He said he “began to compromise my personal world” in the way he often hid who he was away from the field.
“Though I confided in close friends and family and gave myself permission to date both men and women discreetly, I deprived myself the basic privilege of living an open life,” Russell wrote. “That meant I had to be strategic and cautious about meeting guys or getting involved with them during the regular season. It also meant that even though I was building important friendships on my team, I couldn’t be authentic or honest about who I am or what was going on in my life.”
Russell said that he met in early August with coaches and front office executives of an NFL team that expressed interest in signing him for the 2019 season. Though the signing never happened, Russell said he continues to train with the hopes of making a roster.
“I don’t believe this is a big ask in 2019,” Russell wrote. “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.
“NFL teams who worry about the ‘distractions’ that would come with additional media coverage have skilled PR professionals who understand that there are bigger issues on Sunday afternoon than a quarterback being asked, ‘What’s it like having a bisexual teammate?’”
Read more at usatoday.com