Pro-football player Ryan Russell made headlines in August when he came out as bisexual. Russell was honored for his impact on LGBTQ representation in sports.
On Thursday, the Gay Times held its annual Gay Times Honours 500 in London where they, according to People, aim to honor those who have had a “profound impact on the lives of LGBTQ people.” Russell was given the “Sports Hero Award” after coming out in August when he published an essay on ESPN.
“It felt suffocating, it felt regressive, it felt harmful and I never wanted achieving my dreams to feel that way,” he told Gay Times. “I feel very grateful to be part of the LGBTQ community and for people to know that and to see that and to just embrace that.”
People also reported that in addition to receiving his award, Russell also spent a romantic weekend with dancer-boyfriend Corey O’Brien. Russell and O’Brien were spotted hand-in-hand on Saturday as they strolled through the scenic London streets.
Russell started with the Dallas Cowboys and has been a free agent since last playing for the Tampa Buccaneers. In his essay, Russell addressed keeping his sexuality a secret from fans, teammates and sports officials.
“Have I lied to teammates, coaches, trainers, front-office executives and fans about who I am? Not exactly,” Russell wrote. “But withholding information is a form of deceit. And I want the next part of my career — and life — steeped in trust and honesty. During the season you spend more time with your team than with your own family; truth and honesty are the cornerstones of a winning culture. 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.”
According to People, after Russell’s essay was published, O’Brien reacted in a beaming Instagram post where he wrote that he “couldn’t be more proud” of Russell for “speaking his truth as a player in the NFL and as my boyfriend.”