I can count on two hands, the number of stories that highlight bisexuality in professional sports, and one of those hands get amputated when we talk about bisexuality for men in pro sports. In late August of 2019, I focused on living my truth, on being open and honest with myself and the world. The focus was then and has always been, loving myself, accepting myself, and returning to the NFL. Being accepted into the LGBTQ community has been life-changing. I’ve experienced another form of family, one that I’ve only ever felt inside a football locker room. Also, this time no secrets were hiding underneath my shoulder pads, no helmet to mask my fear, only the joy, and support that comes with a team playing for a common goal; love. Although support is excellent, and the allies are plentiful, there aren’t many on the team with real-life experience. When it comes to LGBTQ male athletes in professional sports, there are few to none.
I understand more than anyone that coming out is an extremely personal decision, one that comes with time and a multitude of variables. I can only encourage those who feel ready to come out and guarantee those hearing my story and watching my journey, that every facet of my life is better now that I’m living in my truth. It would be egregious to force athletes out of the closet, hateful even, but we can show other athletes, both young and mature, what life in truth looks like, and how it can only benefit them on and off the playing field.
That is why the media is so important. Most of the people who need to hear my story will never meet me, we will never share a pot of coffee, we will never shake hands, and we will not get the chance to laugh and smile together. Nevertheless, my story supersedes me through the media. Somewhere now, a little boy, girl, or non-binary child is reading my story and seeing my success in the NFL and knowing they too have a place in the world of sports. The world of sports accepts all children, and everyone should have a locker room full of teammates to support them. The locker room is a home, a place of welcoming, and the media is the invite. It is the job of the media to show a brighter future, especially for those who live in fear that being who they are isn’t good enough. No matter your color, ethnicity, religion, gender, class, or sexuality, you can achieve all, and the media should reflect that.
GLAAD understands the power of media, and their dedication to uplifting stories of change, inclusion, truth, and self-love is something that deserves all of our praise and more. I am honored, along with ESPN, to be nominated for the 2020 GLAAD Media award for Oustanding Tv Journalism Segment. “Ryan Russell Reveals His Truth” was just my attempt at living a complete life, one that I could be proud of, and now I believe it can help others do the same. Thank you again to ESPN, GLAAD, and everyone fighting to uplift stories that need to be heard, but often are not. More love in 2020.