NFL free agent Ryan Russell comes out as bisexual

NFL free agent Ryan Russell says he is bisexual and made history Thursday as the first major league football player to come out.

Russell, 27, told his truth to ESPN and Outsports.

Russell also is the only out male professional athlete active in the five major leagues: football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer.

‘I’m…a bisexual man’

“But withholding information is a form of deceit. And I want the next part of my career — and life — steeped in trust and honesty,” Russell told ESPN. “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,” he said.

“Today, I have two goals: returning to the NFL, and living my life openly,” Russell said. “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.”

Ryan Russell Bisexual

Ryan Russell, left, and his boyfriend, Corey O’Brien, have a YouTube channel that will chronicle their journey. Russell made history Thursday as the first active NFL player to come out. Photo: YouTube screen grab.

Best friend’s death

Russell is a three-year NFL veteran. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 after a successful college career at Purdue. He played one season with the Cowboys and two for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He played seven games with the Buccaneers in 2017.

Russell told Outsports that the turning point for him to live his truth was the death of his best friend and college roommate Joe Gilliam. Gilliam died Sept. 11, 2018, after battling cancer for a year.

Russell told Outsports that  Gilliam’s death “was my wake-up call for a lot of things. I just wanted to live my life to the fullest, seeing how short life could be.”

Living his truth

During his time as a free agent, Russell moved to Los Angeles and authored a book of poetry, “Prison or Passion.”

Russell and his boyfriend, Corey O’Brien, a dancer, have launched a YouTube channel to chronicle their journey.

“Even now, I’m kind of wondering what will happen for me career wise,” Russell said on the channel. “I would rather tell the truth and hopefully help someone else than live a lie and help no one. That’s what brought me to this moment.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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