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CMU GSA and athletics host NFL veteran R.K. Russell

Student club commemorates bisexual awareness week hosting one of the nation's highest profile bisexual professional athletes

If the message of R.K Russell could be shared in three words it would be: Live in Truth. This was an underlying message in his recent essay published by ESPN and during a national television interview discussing life in the NFL as a member of the LGBTQ community, and the strain and stress associated with having not shared the complete truth of his life with team family and community.

The announcement of Russell's visit to CMU will occur during the GLADD Media Institute's Bisexual Awareness Week in September, and is meant to commemorate National Coming Out Day on Friday, October 11.

“Being honest about one’s sexual orientation takes self-awareness, self-acceptance and courage," said CMU Genders and Sexualities Alliance (GSA) Advisor Michael Mansheim, who is also the executive director of marketing and communications at CMU. "It’s also a lifelong process that occurs with every new relationship you form. Russell's visit sends the message that if you’re still in the closet, or questioning your sexual orientation, we want you to know that’s OK and that people are here to support you along the way.”

Russell is on the march to rejoin the NFL following his public announcement of being bisexual while also embarking on a new career as a poet and writer. In 2019 Russell published Prison or Passion, a collection of poems inspired by his life experiences and challeges.

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R.K. Russell 

“While football has given me a career and so many fundamental skills and talents, it was writing that has given me my voice and was the vehicle I used to communicate the truth of my personal life,” said Russell. “I’m honored that the students at CMU heard about my story and wanted to hear more about my journey and message and return to the NFL. I look forward to the conversation.” 

Russell will visit CMU students on Wednesday, October 9 including a keynote address with CMU student athletes and a roundtable discusion with LGBTQ students leaders. CMU Co-Director of Athletics Kris Mort is excited to host a professional athlete on campus.

"We are pleased to introduce R.K. Russell to our student-athletes to share with us the opportunities and challenges that each of us face in daily life," said Mort. "Athletics is a wonderful platform for revealing universal common ground that we all share and is becoming a safe space to celebrate our diverse personal differences and common goals for victory."

The story of R.K Russell is one of reaching the heights of a professional sports career; experiencing the tragedy of loss and dissolution; finding his voice through speaking, writing and poetry; and his current return to professional sports. 

Russell's keynote address is open to the community. The remarks will begin at 12:00noon and attendees should plan to be seated no later than 11:45am in Brownson Arena in the CMU Maverick Center.

Russell is currently a free agent and plans to return to the NFL while continuing his career as a writer.

Today, he is the only openly LGBTQ player in the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL.

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Written by David Ludlam