Former Cowboys, Bucs DE Ryan Russell says he is bisexual in ESPN story

Former Cowboys draft pick Ryan Russell told ESPN that he is bisexual. (AP)
Former Cowboys draft pick Ryan Russell told ESPN that he is bisexual. (AP)

An NFL player coming out as gay or bisexual is still rare, but maybe that will start to change.

Ryan Russell, a three-year NFL veteran who plays defensive end, announced he is bisexual in a story told in the first person to ESPN. Russell, a fifth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2015, played one game with the Cowboys in 2015 then parts of two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2016 and 2017.

Russell missed 2018 with a shoulder injury and is unsigned. He said in the ESPN story that going forward he wants prospective employers to know everything about him, including his sexuality.

Ryan Russell wants to play football and live his life openly

Russell said he hasn’t lied about his sexuality, but had not shared that part of his life in the NFL world.

“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,” Russell said in the story.

Russell said he wants to play football and live his life openly and that shouldn’t be a problem, but the fact that “there isn't a single openly LGBTQ player in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball or the NHL, brings me pause.”

Keeping his bisexuality a secret took its toll on Russell.

“Pursuing a career in the NFL is such an intense challenge that I began to compromise my personal world -- and my personal happiness,” Russell said, according to ESPN. “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.”

A few players have come out

There have been a few instances of NFL players coming out. Rams draft pick Michael Sam, a standout college player at Missouri, is probably the most notable. Kansas State tackle Scott Frantz told teammates in 2016 he was gay. He could be an NFL draft prospect in 2020. A few players have come out after their NFL careers.

It’s still rare enough that Russell kept the secret until now. He even described an interaction with a “well-known blogger” who deduced from social media posts that he was dating a man, and after Russell replied and asked him to not out him, the blogger said he would “grant me this favor,” Russell said.

Russell told ESPN his hope is a simple one: That players can be open about their sexuality and still be accepted in the NFL.

“There are a lot of problems in the world, and a lot of issues facing the NFL,” Russell wrote. “And I can say with confidence that LGBTQ players having the comfort to be themselves, date who they want, share parts of their life with friends and teammates will not rank among those issues.”

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab