Ryan Russell — a 27-year-old NFL free agent and defensive end who has played with the Dallas Cowboys, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Buffalo Bills — recently came out as bisexual which is kind of a big deal considering that there are no currently out gay or bisexual players in the NFL.
Russell decided to come out after the death of his dear friend and college roommate, Joe Gilliam. Russell regularly visited him in the hospital when Gilliam had cancer, and yet Gilliam ended up soothing Russell after Russell’s rocky break-up with a boyfriend.
Russell delivered a eulogy and served as a pallbearer at Gilliam’s funeral when he died in September 2018. Having seen how short life can be, Russell decided it was time to come out.
“There was one very important detail about my life [NFL recruiters] weren’t familiar with,” Russell told ESPN.com. “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.”
Russell doesn’t feel like he has lied to teammates, coaches, trainers, front-office executives and fans about who he is, but adds that “withholding information is a form of deceit.” He says:
“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 says a well-known blogger actually figured out that he was bisexual a while back when Russell appeared in the background of a former boyfriend’s Instagram story. When the blogger checked with Russell, Russell begged him not to out him over fears that it’d ruin his career.
While Russell knows that some NFL franchises might view his bisexuality as a media “distraction,” he says, “There are a lot of problems in the world, and a lot of issues facing the NFL. And I can say with confidence that LGBTQ players having the comfort to be themselves, date who they want, share parts of their life with friends and teammates will not rank among those issues.”