Free agent defensive end Ryan Russell says he wants to live his dream of playing in NFL again and to live his life openly—and "those two objectives shouldn't be in conflict." The 27-year-old, who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 and played in 23 games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the following two seasons, comes out as bisexual in a heartfelt essay at ESPN. Russell, who missed the 2018 season after a shoulder injury, says he recently met with an NFL team interested in signing him—and vowed it would be the last time he would "ever interview for a job as anything other than my full self." "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 writes.
Being open about who he is shouldn't be a "big ask," but the fact "that there isn't a single openly LGBTQ player in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, or the NHL, brings me pause," Russell writes. "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." He says that in his experience, 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." He says he doesn't want to be a "symbol or a media star," only to "play ball for a team that knows me off the field and values me on it" and "to be able to dedicate my life to football without feeling like I can't dedicate my life to truth as well." Other players have come out after leaving the league, but if Russell does find a spot in the NFL, he will be the first openly bisexual man to play in a regular season game, CNN reports. (Read more NFL stories.)