THREE YEAR NFL veteran, Ryan Russell, came out as bisexual today in an essay for ESPN.
After discussing the interview process he went through with various teams for the upcoming season, Russell wrote, “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.”
Have I lied to teammates, coaches, trainers, front-office executives and fans about who I am? 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.
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.
“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.”
After his debut, Russell says a “well-known blogger” saw him in the background of an Instagram story of the man Russell was dating, messaged him, and threatened to shake up everything.
“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.”
The blogger didn’t out him, but told Russell to be more careful. He continued to hide throughout his career and injury.
Russell says that until recently, “I 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.”
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A Letter to My Depression Hey, I haven’t seen you for awhile… Which means you’re coming back soon. I hope you’ve enjoyed our time apart As much as I have. I think about you all the time though And it scares me how I’ve grown Accustomed to having you in my life. I’ve been in love since you’ve gone But I know only you and I will last Forever. Yoga and meditation, Yes that’s a new thing. Maybe I’ll find the time for it When you’re here. I know you can be pretty demanding but please. I’ve been writing a lot also. Different stuff than before About life, love, and family. Maybe that will ease you someday. I don’t know if you can read at all. I read in the gardens sometime, Everything grows when you go missing. I grow before you come to shrivel me up. Food actually taste good When I can keep it down. Why do you smell of stale tequila And rotting meat? Why do you leave just to Comeback? Why are you the only one That comes back? Ok well, I’ll see you soon. Love, R.K. Russell P.S. Don’t bring the razor blades this time. The scars are getting harder and harder to hide.
“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.”