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Ryan Russell, the NFL’s first openly bisexual player, says he felt ‘selfish’ coming out because he didn’t want to be a distraction to his team

Summary List PlacementRyan Russell, the NFL's first openly bisexual player, says he felt "selfish" coming out because he didn't want to be a "distraction" to his team. Russell, who is currently a free agent, has had spells with the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Buffalo Bills, and came out...

Ryan Russell

Summary List Placement

Ryan Russell, the NFL’s first openly bisexual player, says he felt “selfish” coming out because he didn’t want to be a “distraction” to his team.

Russell, who is currently a free agent, has had spells with the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Buffalo Bills, and came out as bisexual in 2019 while sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Speaking with BBC Sport in an interview published this week, the 29-year-old said he was aware of his sexual orientation long before then, but decided to keep it hidden.

“I was finally in a place where I could provide for my mother, who had sacrificed so much for me,” said Russell, who grew up in Texas where “football and religion” were all that mattered. 

“It felt almost selfish to come out. I thought, ‘I don’t want to be a distraction to my team, I don’t want to jeopardize our success on the field, and also my personal success or financial status’.

“I could only think of things to lose. I could never think of things to gain.”

Russell says the turning point for him coming out came after he sustained a nasty shoulder injury in 2017 while playing for the Buccaneers, which resulted in him not being re-signed. 

Although he was then picked up by the Bills for the following season, he was released just over a month later. 

“My whole identity was based around football — and I didn’t know if I’d play again,” he said. “I needed to find happiness — both in who I am and outside of what I do for work.

“That started me on my journey of self-love and self-acceptance.”

Russell now says he hopes he can be an inspiration to others like him by taking the next step and becoming the first openly gay or bisexual NFL player ever to feature in a regular-season game. 

“It’s scary, daunting and paralyzing but I’ve got to keep moving forward,” he said. “I want to be the first, but never the last.”

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