Each year during the month of June, LGBTQIA+ Pride Month celebrates those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, and other. The month-long celebration honors the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, NY — a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Throughout the month of June, myriad events take place around the globe, from celebrations, to memorials that honor those whose lives have been lost due to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS.
Pride Month also serves as an opportunity to cast a light on the accomplishments throughout history of those who identify under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. That includes in the world of sports. Outsports recently highlighted its selections for the “100 most powerful and influential out LGBTQ people in sports in the United States,” aka the Outsports Power 100.
Former Buffalo Bills defensive end R.K. Russell made the list, landing at 60. While Russell’s name may not be a household one with Bills Mafia, he serves as a reminder of the importance in highlighting individuals who face difficult barriers in living out their dreams. The former NFL D-lineman joins a truly diverse list encompassing nearly all sports — from athletes, coaches, team owners, and league executives, to college sports administrators, and members of the sports media.
Russell played in four NFL preseason games four the Buffalo Bills, but an injury led to shoulder surgery and his dismissal from the team ahead of the regular season.
Alex Reimer wrote the following about R.K. Russell for his inclusion on the Outsports Power 100 list:
60) RK Russell
Author, advocate, former player, NFL
RK Russell, the first NFL player to publicly come out as bisexual, has been an advocate for LGBTQ inclusion for years. This spring, he published a memoir about his life, in which he delves in detail about his grief, struggles as a closeted Black man, and ultimately, how he found joy. “For marginalized people, and specifically young, Black queer people, I want them to feel not only that they’re not alone, but that they can do anything,” Russell said in an interview earlier this year. Now living his dream as a creative artist in L.A., Russell is showing that’s the case. — Alex Reimer
Russell’s time in the NFL was short, having played for the Dallas Cowboys (2015), then Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2016-2017), before that short stint with the Bills during the summer of 2018. In total, Russell played in 23 games. with his best season coming in 2017 when he started seven games for Tampa Bay, and notched two of his three career sacks.
The strides Russell made for others who identify similarly far surpass his professional career. To help celebrate NFL Pride Month, RK Russell recently joined the crew of NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” to discuss his football career (including his most memorable sack), his book “The Yards Between Us: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Football” — and his involvement with multiple NFL pride initiatives.