Out NFL player and poet R.K. Russell is used to sharing his thoughts and emotions through his writing. Recently he’s focused the writing of three poems on the reasons for current protests and social unrest, and his life and perspectives as a Black man.

The three poems are named for, and in tribute to, three Black men who were killed by police — Tony McDade and George Floyd — or, in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, a former police detective.

Russell has been writing poetry for years, publishing a book of poetry, Prison or Passion, in 2019.

He originally shared these poems with Outsports in a live reading during a virtual event we hosted on June 11.

Russell has been busy writing a memoir, building a YouTube channel with his boyfriend, Corey O’Brien, working with the NFL on inclusion initiatives, and training for the upcoming NFL season. Russell is currently a free agent.

You can read his three tribute poems here:


I’ve walked into rooms and tried to take off my blackness

To hang it up like a coat or like my ancestors

And I’ve kicked off my queerness

So to not stain the white floors

Of white rooms

Filled with white people

Who wished the door was locked

In the first place


I have asked

begged, and pleaded

time and time again to be seen as human,

and I live my life, not knowing

whether I have been heard.

When I grow old

and take my final labored breath,

in a bed surrounded by those I love.

Maybe then, or perhaps I was just lucky.

If I am beaten while I hold my hands up in peace,

thrown to the ground,

so it’s easier to look down on me,

forcefully restrained as I beg for my next labored breath,

murdered while innocent until proven otherwise,

and my best hope is to be memorialized by a cellphone screen;

I will know my plea met deaf ears.


Why do you hunt us?

Like a beast, animals, fur, claws, as if we run on all fours

You chase us down in police cars or

Inside a pick-up truck full of rifles fueled by privilege or racism or a premium blend of both

Father and son like this is a fucking bonding experience

Black is not bulletproof even though we have endured more than any porcelain doll

Like a beast, animals, Fur, claws, and it’s hunting season

Black folk being the only permitted game

You’ve belittled us for generations but we don’t know how to be small

And anything larger than you must be a beast

Animal, fur, claws, you won’t even let us speak

Afraid our mouths will reveal fangs or maybe innocence

Our pictures memorialized over the internet like deer heads for your mantel

My mother calls me after ever murder

Crying and screaming wondering if her son will be next

If I will be the big catch this time around

She should be sacred

Terrified to point where we fear our own skin

And we peel it off ourselves

Skinning our brother and sisters alive

Before you have the pleasure

Do you know why you hate us?

Beast, animal, fur, claws

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