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Who is Ryan Russell? Bisexual NFL player playing a big role in LGBTQ awareness in sports world

Ryan Russell of Tampa Bay Buccaneers sacks Drew Brees of New Orleans Saints
Ryan Russell of Tampa Bay Buccaneers sacks Drew Brees of New Orleans Saints
Rit Nanda

Ryan Russell showed his bravery when playing one of the toughest sports known to humankind. That pales in comparison to the work he has been doing since coming out as bisexual. Even now, when many people all across the world face prejudice simply for loving someone who might not meet standard societal definitions, Ryan Russell is advocating for increased visibility of LGBTQ players in sports. Recently, Carl Nassib became the first active gay player to play in the NFL and it is hoped with people like Ryan Russell doing their advocacy, more players will follow.

Ryan Russell's journey to realization of his own self

Ryan Russell went to college at Purdue and played as a defensive end before being picked in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. After spending a year with them, he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he played for two years. In 2018 he signed on with the Buffalo Bills but was released before the regular season, allegedly due to a shoulder injury that may have jeopardized his participation that year.

Following his release, he additionally had to contend with the death of his close friend and former teammate Joseph Gilliam. That caused him to spiral into depression as he also worried about caring for his mother and grandfather following the loss of his earnings as an NFL player.

However, through that adversity, Ryan Russell found his true calling. He moved to Los Angeles and began writing, and in August 2019 he penned an essay where he came out as bisexual.

"Whatever I was to you before this letter, I'm still that now. We just know each other a little better." NFL free agent Ryan Russell came out as bisexual in a personal essay.twitter.com/i/events/11671…

At that time, he was trying out for a team after having missed the previous season due to the aforementioned shoulder injury. He had the epiphany of coming out after that because even though he had a great interview and workout with that team, he felt he was being deceitful by withholding information about who he truly was.

He felt that he had done a disservice to his teammates as well in not telling them earlier and wanted to live a life where he was no longer hiding from the world who he truly was. It was an act of supreme rebellion just to be the person he really is, which says a lot about how much professional sports has to improve.

Happy #LovingDay, everyone! Interracial marriage was legalized in the U.S. just 54 years ago. https://t.co/8gf1Ok23Kx

He is currently in a happy relationship with his boyfriend Corey O'Brien and we hope that soon he will be remembered as a trailblazer for LGBTQ inclusivity in football.


Edited by Henno van Deventer

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