Russell was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 and last played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017. In the essay as told to writer Kevin Arnovitz, he said he wants the next football team to sign him to know who he truly is.
“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.
The lack of even one openly LGBTQ player currently playing in the NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball gives him pause, Russell said, but he wants to change that.
“For me, for other athletes who share these common goals, and for the generations of LGBTQ athletes who will come next,” he said.
An openly gay athlete has never played a game for an NFL team. In 2014, Michael Sam became the first openly gay player drafted when he was selected by the St. Louis Rams, but Sam didn’t make the final 53-man roster. In 2017, former offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan came out as gay, years after his retirement from the league in 2011.
Russell said that athletes’ choices about whom they date are far from the NFL’s most pressing issues.
“I can say with confidence that LGBTQ players having the comfort to be themselves, date who they want, [and] share parts of their life with friends and teammates will not rank among those issues,” he said.
Russell also emphasized that he is still looking for a team ― he was released by the Buffalo Bills last fall ― and that his choice to come out is not a choice to retire from the NFL.
“I want to be able to dedicate my life to football without feeling like I can’t dedicate my life to truth as well,” he said.