Robbie Rogers Hopes to Help Other Gays Who Are Athletes

By Borden, Sam | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), November 17, 2013 | Go to article overview

Robbie Rogers Hopes to Help Other Gays Who Are Athletes


Borden, Sam, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Robbie Rogers generally prefers to avoid reminiscing.

Even this past week, as he considered all that had happened during the past 12 months -- his decision to announce his sexual orientation, his brief retirement and his return to soccer as the first openly gay male athlete in a prominent North American professional league -- he interspersed his memories with sizable dollops of excitement about what lies ahead.

But as much as Rogers, 26, might prefer to avoid looking back on it, his decision to come out publicly in February -- while at the same time announcing he would step away from professional soccer -- was the spark for an extended public debate about how a gay athlete would be received in professional sports.

That debate, he said, should continue.

When Rogers ended his retirement in May and joined Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy, he found a team and a league that were mostly welcoming.

There were times, though, he said, when even some of his teammates unknowingly left him feeling a familiar discomfort.

"The guys were so supportive and it was great, but there were also times when the guys didn't know they were being homophobic," Rogers said in a telephone interview this past week. "Maybe they didn't know I was in the room, but they'd say things like 'no homo,' or they'll say something is pretty fruity.

"It doesn't really bother me, but it's like they still need to learn. Someone that is closeted is very hypersensitive to that stuff, and if that's going on in locker rooms where I am -- and everyone knows about me -- imagine what happens in other places."

Rogers said that he had also heard occasional insensitive comments from spectators at games, and that he had received a slew of emails that he described as variously "hateful" and "just completely, totally, oh-my-god over the top."

Ignoring those emails was easy enough, Rogers said. He spent more time reading the correspondence he received from other closeted athletes, many of them teenagers or young adults, who said they saw him as an inspiration.

That is part of the reason that Rogers, a midfielder, says he plans to continue playing.

The rest of his drive stems from a belief that he can still be a top player despite struggling with injuries this season and failing to make a strong impression with the Galaxy.

Technically, Rogers was traded to the Galaxy by the Chicago Fire, who had retained his rights while he was playing in England before his retirement. …

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