NFL free agent Ryan Russell comes out as bisexual, hopes to return to league

NFL defensive end Ryan Russell has come out as bisexual and said he hopes to be the first openly LGBTQ athlete to play in a regular season game.

Russell, 27, went public with his sexuality in an ESPN.com article published Thursday

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," Russell said. "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."

NFL free agent and defensive end Ryan Russell, 27, is looking to become the first openly LGBTQ athlete to play in the major American sports teams. (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images, File)

NFL free agent and defensive end Ryan Russell, 27, is looking to become the first openly LGBTQ athlete to play in the major American sports teams. (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images, File)

Russell, a Texas native who played college football at Purdue University in Indiana, said he decided to speak out as “a talented football player, a damn good writer, a loving son, an overbearing brother, a caring friend, a loyal lover, and a bisexual man."

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Russell was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He was released prior to the 2016 season and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he spent the next two seasons. He signed with the Buffalo Bills in the summer of 2018, but was released as part of roster cutdowns due to a shoulder injury.

In the article, Russell said that his transparency would help, not hinder, his production with an NFL team.

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"Have I lied to teammates, coaches, trainers, front-office executives and fans about who I am? Not exactly," he said. "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.”

In 2014, Michael Sam became the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team when the St. Louis Rams selected him in the seventh round. Sam played in four preseason games before the Rams released him. Sam also spent time on the Cowboys practice squad and with the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes before retiring from football in August 2015 due to mental health reasons.