Ryan Russell is Poised to be the NFL’s First Openly LGBT Player

If you had asked me who the first openly LGBT NFL player would be and what position they would play, my money would have been on lesbian place kicker. Seriously, if you don’t think Megan Rapinoe could split the uprights from 45 yards out, you’re crazy.

But as it turns out, the first openly LGBT NFL player looks like it will probably be Ryan Russell, a gigantic defensive end, who announced to the world that he is bisexual and in a relationship with a man in an article he penned for ESPN.

It’s not a quick read, but it’s deeply personal and well worth reading in its entirety, but I’ll try to hit the high points here.

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.

Russell is bisexual, and even though he missed last season due to injury, he’s looking to come back to the league this year. Which will be somewhat groundbreaking.

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.

It’s almost surprising there isn’t a single out LGBT pro athlete in any major American sports league. Clearly there are probably a number who are in the closet, as Russell was. And Russell started seven games for Tampa Bay, so there are clearly LGBT athletes capable of performing at the level of an NFL pro. I mean, remember Tim Tebow? The bar is pretty low.

Nevertheless, I know now truth is survival, and that we cannot survive in this world without vulnerability and love. Also, the best version of myself, the best partner, the best friend, the best teammate, is one that’s open and honest. Next, it will be a signed player, then a Pro Bowler, then a Super Bowl champion who embraces who he is publicly.

Personally, I’m rooting for him. Not just because bisexuality is clearly the best sexuality, which you know because David Bowie was bi and he was the best, but he just seems genuine, determined… we need more guys like Ryan Russell in the NFL, and fewer murderers and dudes who beat up their partners in elevators or kiss their kids on the lips. I know that last one isn’t really the same but it’s still just fucking weird, okay?

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