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NFL Player Comes Out as Bisexual; August Job Numbers; Chemical Focus of Vaping Illness. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 6, 2019 - 08:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Veteran NFL player Ryan Russell has revealed he is bisexual in a personal essay for ESPN. Russell, or Russ, as he likes to be called, is currently a free agent, is the only active male athlete in the four major professional sports leagues to openly identify as LGBTQ.

Joining me now is Ryan Russel.

Russ, thank you very much for being with us.

I have to say, this is wonderful, wonderful piece you wrote for ESPN. And everyone should go read it.

I want to read just a little bit of it for people so they can hear, you talked about what your life was like until just very recent. You said, I lied to myself every chance I could. I looked in the mirror and lied. Got into relationships and lied. Woke up every morning and went to sleep every night lying about the fullness of my soul.

Why did you feel you had to lie?

RYAN RUSSELL, BISEXUAL NFL FREE AGENT: Well, honestly, it was a progress for me -- process just coming out and accepting who I was, accepting the full range of who I was. And sometimes it feels safer to hide parts of yourself that you aren't yet comfortable with, so I did that for years. And once I finally felt ready to come out and felt ready to express who I was, I just felt a weight lifted. I became a better brother. I became a better son. I believe I'll be a better teammate.

BERMAN: It's that last part that I want to focus on there because I think that's really interesting. You talked about the impact that it had on you living this lie or hiding part of yourself for so long, the depression it caused, but the idea that now being out in the open can make you a better athlete, make you a better football player. You write, if you aren't fully present and authentic in the training facility, you simply cannot be a standout teammate. If you're not who you are, you can't be your best football player. Explain that.

RUSSELL: Yes. In professional sports, everyone talks about the mental edge. You know, everyone's so gifted and so talented physically and that mental edge is what really takes a team and a player to the next level. If you're constantly focused on kind of fears or constantly focused on hiding a part of yourself or have your focus on anything other than their sport, your opponent, and your craft, then you won't be as effective. You'll be a step behind. You'll be a step slower. You know, you won't be as decisive when it comes to critical decision making that happens in a split second on the field.

BERMAN: Yes, if you're spending any energy worrying about hiding something about yourself, that's energy you're not using to pummel the offensive lineman or sack the quarterback. And I'm not making light of it. I think it's just true. And I think it's interesting that you do write about that.

You also write, today I have two goals, returning to the NFL and living my life openly. How do you know that you can achieve both or how do you know that you will be allowed to achieve both?


RUSSELL: Well, we don't know anything for sure -- for certain. I know definitely that I've been in the league now for three years, most of my time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and I've had success. You know, I've started in NFL games. I've had sacks on big-time quarterbacks. And I've made an impact. And I've suffered a shoulder injury end of 2017. That took me away from football.

And then I began to live more openly and more honestly in my personal life. And I've had just great personal gain and personal success and personal growth. And I see no reason why those two things can't mesh together. I see no reason why those two things wouldn't feed off of each other and allow me to really be the best person I can be and the best player I can be.

BERMAN: Don't get me wrong, I'm not doubting you for a second here. I'm doubting whether a team will allow it to happen, because you're not on a roster right now, correct?

RUSSELL: Yes. For sure. For sure. Yes. And the thing is, I believe the NFL is in a great position to be the hero of this story. I believe the NFL is ready to support an openly LGBT athlete. I believe the NFL has the resources -- I know they have the resources, definitely, to control any type of media hailstorm or distraction they -- they might be in where that word distraction that has been brought up before when it comes to openly LGBTQ players.

I believe the NFL has the resources. I believe the team has the resources to handle that and to control that. And a player that is focused on winning and creating the winning culture, I mean that -- their sexuality doesn't matter.

BERMAN: You --

RUSSELL: All that matters is that you come to work every day and that you give it your all. BERMAN: One of your most elegant sentences here I like is, I don't

believe this is a big ask in 2019. It's not a big ask to let a guy who can sack the quarterback come on, be on your football team just because of who he's dating.

But you use the word distraction. And I do think that's really interesting because one of the excuses you often hear from pro football teams is, well, here -- sure, maybe this guy can play, but it's going to be a distraction. We're going to get asked about it in the locker room. It's going to pull focus.

What's your response to that?

RUSSELL: My response to that is, I mean, there are going to be distractions everywhere. Media and news, as we all know, it doesn't stop. It keeps going.

I don't want to talk about my sexuality when it comes to football. I don't want to come off a field where I've just been sweating and bleeding with my brothers and my teammates and have to answer questions about my sexuality. I believe there are systems in place where we can limit that, where we can tell the media, you know, hey, this is not a topic of discussion. I don't want my star quarterback to have to talk about a teammate's sexuality. And I think that we just handle it as -- we just handle it like that. We just go step by step with it. We take this journey on together and we focus on football, which is what we're all here to focus on.

BERMAN: But the fact of the matter is, is that there still hasn't been an openly LGBTQ male athlete on one of the big four sports teams active. It hasn't happened yet. Why?

RUSSELL: I just think there's not many opportunities yet. Like, you can't support an openly LGBTQ player if there are no open LGBTQ players. That's just kind of the nature of the beast is someone has to take that first step. And I've come to a point in my life where that step for me is vital just in my development on the field and my development off the field.

And I'm willing to be that first person, and hopefully I can encourage other athletes, whether they're at the professional level, the collegiate, or just a young kid starting out, to be their full self and to know that there is a space for them in sports and there's a space for them in the -- on the highest platform.

BERMAN: Russ, we're so glad that you're getting to live your life the way you want to now. Thank you so much for writing this piece. Thank you so much for coming on this morning. And we wish you the best of luck. And, I promise, we will root for you no matter where you end up as long as you're not playing the Patriots.

RUSSELL: Thank you. I appreciate it.

BERMAN: Thanks for being with us.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What a great interview. I mean, and his point that to let other kids know that there is space for them.

BERMAN: Look, there's some gay athletes who came out after they left the league who say he -- they think there's at least one or two gay athletes on every team. But the fact of the matter is, we don't know. There needs to be a first. There needs to be a first out in the open.

CAMEROTA: That was brilliant (ph).

All right, the August jobs report has just been released. It's not exactly good news. We have the latest numbers for you, next.



CAMEROTA: Breaking news on the economy. The August jobs report has just been released and chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us with the numbers.

How do they look?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the job market's still marching forward, but at a slower pace, 130,000 net new jobs created and 25,000 or so of those were census jobs, federal hiring. So without the census, you would have had a little bit of a weaker job market than even we're showing here.

Take a look at the jobless rate, 3.7 percent. This remains near a historic generational low. About 500 -- more than 500,000 people entered it labor market. So these months and months and months of decent job numbers are encouraging people to come back in. So that is an important sign of success in the labor market right now.

Business and information services, big job gains there. Again, health care. These have been driving parts of the economy really, health care and business information systems.

Here's a disappointment, though, manufacturing basically at a standstill. Only 3,000 jobs created there. And I want to really show you what this look like longer term. This is what looks like a sputtering in American manufacturing. This month, only 3,000 jobs created.

That's far below last month, which is far below the average for the year. And, really, when you look at the last 12 months of manufacturing and job creation, a significant slowdown from the prior year. So something is happening in manufacturing.

We know the manufacture sector actually contracted in the most recent quarter for the first time in many years, in three or four years, and that is a danger zone to watch here.


Even as the president's own trade policies, by the way, were meant to favor manufacturing, manufacturing is stuttering here, in part because of his tariffs and his tough talk strategy on China.

Let's talk about what the president is saying this morning about the Fed before these numbers were officially released. Of course the president saw those yesterday. The president was talking about the Fed and slamming the Fed again, saying the Fed needs to be cutting interest rates. So the president trying to get out ahead of these numbers, disappointing numbers in the eyes of Wall Street, and say it's the Fed's fault, guys.

BERMAN: Yes, why is he trying to change the focus is because when you look at the trends, Romans, broth is slowing.

ROMANS: It absolutely is. Jobs added, again, look here, this is August, 130,000. When you look out over several years, you've got a president here now who is presiding over about 600 million new jobs creating in his presidency. That lags the last 29 or 30 months of President Obama. So not the job creation we saw at the end of the Obama administration. That's got to really rankle this president.

CAMEROTA: Christine, thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right, so doctors may have pinpointed exactly what is causing so many people to get sick from vaping. This is an important story. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us with this important update, next.



CAMEROTA: More than 200 vaping related illnesses across 25 states have been reported, including two deaths. Health officials are now zeroing in on a specific chemical that may be to blame.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us with more.

Of course you've been following the vaping epidemic for so long.

So what is this mystery ingredient?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, the ingredient is something called vitamin e acetate. And you don't need to remember the name as much this you need to know that this is a nutritional supplement, vitamin e, something that people take by mouth. They even can rub on their skin.

But what the investigators are very concerned about is that this appears to have shown up in many of the products that have been tested so far. And when you vape it, when you vaporize it, inhale it into the lungs, the concern is that this -- it's almost like a grease-like substance, that it sort of liquefies and then maybe solidifies once again in the lungs. So it's a -- it's a -- quite an image to sort of think about, but that's what they think could be causing this.

This is an ongoing investigation, and it's complicated. Many states, many patients, can't figure out what exactly they were vaping and all these different substances, which is the one that's in common here between all these patients who got sick.

This is what they're zeroing in on. They found this in New York state in several of the samples and now the feds are starting to get involved looking at this more nationally.

BERMAN: Well, what exactly are they looking at, what are they saying about this now, the federal government, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, it's interesting that the federal government is saying we are looking at the samples. We see that most of the samples that they -- seem to be the culprit here are actually not nicotine containing samples but rather cannabis containing samples. So people seem to be vaping cannabis, THC. Can't say that for sure at this point, that it's just the cannabis THC, but that does appear to be the big culprit here.

So, in some ways what the -- what the CDC, the FDA are doing are -- they're saying, let's now start to look at this -- this nationally. Are there clusters of products? We haven't been able to point to one single product that's causing this. But can we? Can we point to a product that's been contaminated? Can we point to a product that has this concerning ingredient in it and start to make a dent in this because, obviously, you know, you have over 200 people now in 25 states who have gotten quite ill.

CAMEROTA: And so are individual states taking action somehow?

GUPTA: Yes. You know, it's really interesting, Alisyn, and you know what -- there's two things about this that I find super interesting. One is that the state of Michigan has basically said we're going to ban these flavored e-cigarette products. So they don't want any of these -- these types of products anymore. That's quite a large thing for a state to say. The city of San Francisco has said ban e- cigarettes all together. Other cities also taking that cue.

What's interesting is, I've never seen anything quite like that before where you just say we're going to do bans. And keep in mind, you know, in many of these places, you can still sell combustible cigarettes, which is something that the e-cigarette manufacturers are sort of saying, well, hang on a second, we originally developed a product to try and help people stop smoking. Our product is getting banned. Combustible cigarettes still being sold. How is this all going to shakeout? These are fair questions that are happening in real-time now around the country.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, thank you very much for keeping us apprised of all the developments with vaping because obviously it's such a big concern for parents everywhere.

GUPTA: You got it.

BERMAN: And Sanjay's really been on the front edge of all the reporting on this. Great to have it.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, Sanjay. All right, meanwhile, many students heading back to school this week, but there is a hidden population of children who are on the brink of homelessness, 1.3 million kids sleep on the streets or they couch surf every night in the United States. Kids who have made the tough decision to leave their unstable homes and navigate a dangerous world on their own. And that, of course, makes them ineligible for foster care. So this week's CNN Hero is bringing these teenagers out of the shadows, giving them a safe house to live in, and also love, belonging and a chance at a brighter future.


VICKI SOKOLIK, CNN HERO: There's a lot of shame that goes with being a homeless, unaccompanied youth. They hide what's actually going on with them. And so they really become this very invisible population. Most people don't even know these kids exist.

The transformation of these kids is monumental.


They come in so broken and I'm just one person telling them I'm going to help them.

They become softer. It's just great that they can be happy and they're able to be kids again.


CAMEROTA: All right, so to find out more about CNN Hero Vicki Sokolik, go to

BERMAN: All right, Hurricane Dorian still having an impact on the East Coast of the United States, pushing its way past North Carolina right now. Could make landfall in the outer banks. Our coverage continues right after this.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good Friday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto here in Washington.

Right now, Hurricane Dorian is slamming.