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NFL free agent Russell comes out as bisexual

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Agence France-Presse

NFL defensive end Ryan Russell came out as bisexual in interviews published Thursday, saying he hoped the revelation wouldn’t hinder his return to the league.

Russell, who spoke to Outsports.com and ESPN.com, has played for the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He said he decided to go public with his sexual identity in order to be the best version of himself.

“Have I lied to teammates, coaches, trainers, front-office executives and fans about who I am? Not exactly,” he told ESPN.

“But withholding information is a form of deceit,” he said. “And I want the next part of my career — and life — steeped in trust and honesty.”

Russell was drafted in the fifth round by the Cowboys in 2015. After one season in Dallas he played two for the Buccaneers, playing 14 games and starting seven for them in 2017.

He missed the 2018 season after shoulder surgery, and said his twin goals now are “returning to the NFL, and living my life openly.”

“Those two objectives shouldn’t be in conflict,” he said. “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.”

Michael Sam became the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team when he was taken in the seventh round of the 2014 draft by the St. Louis Rams.

Sam never played a regular-season NFL game and stepped away from the game in 2015, cutting short a foray into the Canadian Football League.

In 2015, David Denson became the first openly gay player in Major League Baseball’s development system, but he never made the jump from the minor leagues and retired from the game in 2017.

Despite the absence of openly LGBTQ players in the locker room, Russell told Outsports he found it “one of the safest places I can think of.

“I’ve never felt unsafe there,” he said.

But after working out with a prospective NFL team in August, and failing to address his sexuality with executives during meetings, he realized he wouldn’t keep his bisexuality from any future team that hired him.

“This is the last time I will ever interview for a job as anything other than my full self,” he said. “Out of love, admiration and respect, I want the next team to sign me valuing me for what I do and knowing who I truly am.”