Robbie Rogers comes out
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
There were no boos, cries of derision, nor even a hint of shouting. On May 26, when Robbie Rogers stepped onto the pitch as a 77th-minute substitute for the Los Angeles Galaxy, he did so to rapturous applause. The Galaxy didn’t need another difference maker, seeing as they were already up 4-0 over the visiting Seattle Sounders, but Rogers proved to be just that. But his contribution was one that went far beyond the game itself: by participating in the Galaxy’s match, Rogers became the first active, openly-gay male athlete in an American professional sport.
The past few months have been interesting for Rogers. After being released by Leeds United in January of this year, he was free to sign wherever he wanted. However, instead of pursuing a new deal, Rogers announced that he was stepping away from the game and that he was gay. “I’m a soccer player, I’m Christian, and I’m gay. Those are things that people might say wouldn’t go well together. But my family raised me to be an individual and to stand up for what I believe in.” It was a courageous move for Rogers, but it seemed somewhat muted due to the fact that his coming out was done so following his retirement. Nonetheless, he received a massive outpouring of support and became a beacon for gay athletes.
His journey wasn’t over yet though. After speaking at a Nike Be True LGBT Youth Forum in April, the former USMNT winger started to reconsider his early departure from the game. “I seriously felt like a coward. These kids are standing up for themselves and changing the world, and I’m 25. I have a platform and a voice to be a role model. How much of a coward was I to not step up to the plate?” He began training with the Galaxy shortly after that. Then, in the final move of his comeback, the Galaxy acquired Rogers’ rights from the Chicago Fire in exchange for Mike Magee.
In an ideal world, this shouldn’t even be a story. The fact that homophobes still exist is a huge black mark on society. A person’s sexual orientation should never be a cause for judgement. Rogers’ coming out, and the relatively positive reception he’s received, is a huge step in the right direction. While NBA player Jason Collins also revealed this year in a highly-publicized issue of Sports Illustrated that he was gay, Collins is currently a free agent and may never play again. Rogers has actually taken to the field and participated in multiple matches. He’s proved that the world can be accepting, and that all the supportive talk for him off the pitch was more than just empty words.
Detractors will point out that the MLS is merely the fifth most popular league in the States and that a gay NFLer would cause infinitely more waves, but they’re missing the main idea. It’s been a gradual climb for homosexual athletes; it’s not a sprint. Case in point: females have been coming out for decades, but there’s scarcely a peep about it in the news when it occurs these days. Tennis player Martina Navratilova came out in 1981—that was 32 years ago.
The impact Rogers has on professional sports may not be fully recognized for years, but the key point here is that children of this generation will grow up knowing that there is a gay professional athlete. Slowly but surely, the realization that there’s nothing wrong with being homosexual will stop being a cause one has to fight for, and start being that which it should have been all along: perfectly acceptable.