Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fulfilling Opening Perfect for Gay Player

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fulfilling Opening Perfect for Gay Player

Article excerpt

CARSON, Calif. -- Robbie Rogers thought he had stepped away from his career as a professional soccer player in England the moment he pressed the button publishing a blog post announcing that he was gay. At the time, in February, he said, he could not imagine that he could be himself on and off the field. But a month later, after Rogers spoke to a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teenagers in Portland, Ore., he had begun to realize that playing soccer not only fulfilled him, but it offered him an opportunity to do something more.

"That Nike camp made me feel a little soft," Rogers, 26, said Saturday, after he signed a contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer. "It taught me I needed to man-up a little bit. It's easy to play a sport that you love and be a role model for people. It's a perfect situation for me."

A torrent of attention greeted the barrier-breaking announcement a month ago by the NBA player Jason Collins that he is gay. But it is Rogers who is poised to become the first openly gay male athlete to compete in a North American professional sport. That could happen tonight when, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said, Rogers will be on the 18-player active roster for their home game against Seattle. Arena expects to receive Rogers' release today from his English team, Leeds United.

If Rogers' path back to professional soccer became clearer in Oregon, he was pushed further along by his agent, who sent him clips of Rogers having fun with a ball at his feet, and by friends and former teammates who encouraged him to return. The positive reaction to Collins' coming out also served as a nudge, as did the release of "42," a movie about Jackie Robinson. When he was granted permission to work out with Galaxy, his hometown team, he began to seriously consider the possibility.

When Rogers, a talented winger who was on the cusp of making the 2010 World Cup team, asked Arena about the possibility of joining the Galaxy, the team initiated discussions with the Chicago Fire, who held Rogers' rights. After several weeks of negotiations, which at times involved the league office, Arena on Tuesday approached Mike Magee, the Galaxy's leading goal scorer and a Chicago native, about returning home. …

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