NFL veteran Ryan Russell has come out as bisexual.
The former Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers player opened up about his childhood as a young black boy through an essay with ESPN. Russell noted his childhood struggle of being neither straight nor gay.
“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,” says Russell. “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.”
That intimidation with discussing his sexual orientation continued for years.
Russell says that until recently, he “didn’t love myself enough to live openly and honestly. I was ashamed of who I am. I prayed countless nights for God to take away this part of me. I was ashamed to love women because I knew I could also love men. I stayed up so many nights in fear of being found out, in fear that the professional sports world would reject me for the way I was born. I lied to myself every chance I could. I looked in the mirror and lied, got into relationships and lied, woke up every morning and went to sleep every night lying about the fullness of my soul.”
Unfortunately, Russell was encouraged to stay in the closet while working as a professional athlete. He was even blackmailed at one point in an experience that negatively affected his viewpoint on sexuality. After his first season as a professional athlete, Russell was recognized by a “well-known blogger” in the Instagram story of a man he was dating. The blogger then threatened to reveal him.
“The blogger could have revealed I was in a gay relationship. My professional world and personal world were colliding with me caught in the cataclysm. I panicked, then wrote back, reminding him that there were implications about his actions he didn’t fully understand. 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. He’d eradicate a childhood dream that was the product of years of work and sacrifice.”
But now, Russell notes that he’s ready to return to the NFL as a confident and open bisexual man.
“Today, I have two goals: returning to the NFL, and living my life openly,” he writes. “This is the last time I will ever interview for a job as anything other than my full self. Out of love, admiration and respect, I want the next team to sign me valuing me for what I do and knowing who I truly am.
“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.”
We hope to see that become a reality.