NFL Player Ryan Russell Comes Out as Bisexual
The NFL has been running for 100 years. Yet, in that century only a dozen of its players had come out to tell the world that they are gay or bisexual. Unfortunately, the league seems to still have its bias and stereotypes regarding homosexuality or bisexuality as it is not as open as other sports.
That number of players coming out increased to 13 recently, as former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Ryan Russell came out as bisexual. Who is he and what does his announcement mean for the sport?
All About Ryan Russell
He grew up in Texas and started his sports career at Creekview High School before taking up a scholarship at Purdue University. After posting impressive statistics in his college football years, Russell joined the NFL in the 2015 draft.
He started his pro career with the Dallas Cowboys before joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2016. A short spell with the Buffalo Bills in 2018 was followed by a change of career, as he moved to Los Angeles and began writing.
This change was prompted by the death, from cancer, of his friend Joseph Gilliam. He also spoke out recently about the fear he had in the past that his sexuality could harm his career. However, after confiding in some close friends, he realized that being open was the best way to feel “the freedom of transparency”.
When he came out this year, Russell published a love poem that he dedicated to his boyfriend, Cory O’Brien. He called for all other LGBTQ players to come out, and for others to help them to do so without fear.
Jeff Rohrer Came Out Last Year
At the time of writing, there are no current NFL stars who have confirmed that they are gay or bisexual. The last person to do this was ex-Dallas Cowboys linebacker, Jeff Rohrer.
Rohrer played college football for Yale University, before joining the Dallas Cowboys in the 1982 NFL draft. His pro career ended when he was released in 1989.
In 2018, Rohrer hit the headlines when he came out as gay and announced that he was engaged to partner Joshua Ross. Their marriage was in November 2018 and it made him the first former or current NFL star to get married to a partner of the same sex.
The History of Gay and Bisexual Players in Pro Football
As mentioned earlier, very few NFL players have come out. The very first to do this was running back Dave Kopay. He came out in 1975, a few years after he had retired from the Green Bay Packers.
Another example comes from Jerry Smith. This tight end has a successful career with the Washington Redskins. Sadly, he died of AIDS in 1986, without having publicly spoken about being gay.
Indeed, it was Dave Kopay who confirmed after his death that Smith had been gay. He was also featured on the NFL Network’s A Football Life series of documentaries, about his struggle to balance a successful sports career with keeping his sexuality a secret.
Other NFL players worth mentioning in this context are Ray MacDonald, Roy Simmons, Esera Tuaolo, and Ryan O’Callaghan. Fans of the NFL and those who make sports bets on football will no doubt fondly remember some of those names.
What Does the Future Hold?
It is impossible to believe that there aren’t many gayer and more bisexual NLF players, both past and current. Clearly, many of them have decided to keep their sexuality a secret for one reason or another.
However, the more players who follow the example of Ryan Russell and Jeff Rohrer the better. The way that they have publicly come out and spoken about their private lives should help others to do the same in the future.