In 2020, Ryan Russell had a message for teams that say they’re pro-LGBTQ: “call me.” The defensive end publicly came out as bisexual in 2019 and is still waiting on his shot to get back into the National Football League.
Since coming out as bisexual, the three-year veteran who’s played for the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers has used his platform to raise awareness for LGBTQ visibility in sports.
“To me, visibility is hope,” Russell explains of Bi Visibility Day, a day aimed to raise bisexual awareness, celebrated every year on Sept. 23. “I think it should be readily available for everyone, no matter who you are, how you look or who you love.”
“To go from someone who did not see a lot of visibility, and in turn did not have a lot of hope, to now, hopefully being visible and being a beacon of hope, even if it is the combination of so many trials and tribulations, now I understand why I went through them and why they happened. And that feels good,” he says. “I feel unstoppable. like I could do anything.”
“Education, I think, is always the first hurdle,” Russell says. “The understanding of bisexuality is so different for everybody because the definition of bisexuality has changed and grown so much, especially when we evolved conversations around gender and nonbinary people.”
Russell appeared in the NFL’s National Coming Out Day video, alongside current stars such as Rob Gronkowski and DeAndre Hopkins, as well as former out players, including Wade Davis and Ryan O’Callaghan.
“I want to see a league that I love, that I believe in, and am blessed to be part of take that next step, and that next step is action,” Russell told me on this week’s edition of “The Sports Kiki” podcast. “The excuse of, ‘there just aren’t any out athletes,’ you can’t use that excuse anymore, because there is. I am out. I am an athlete. I am 28 and at the height of my athletic career; Covid is happening and a lot of players are opting out; injuries are happening; there was no preseason. Give me a call. There’s an opportunity here for you to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak.”
The Dallas Cowboys selected Russell in the fifth-round of the 2015 NFL Draft.