Robbie Rogers Becomes First Openly Gay Male Athlete to Compete in an American Pro Sport

Earlier this month, NBA center Jason Collins became the first active male player in American pro sports to come out of the closet as gay. Former pro-soccer player Robbie Rogers announced in February that he is gay and that he was retiring from the sport at just 25-years-old. Collins is unsigned as of the moment, and yesterday Rogers announced that he will come out of retirement to join the Los Angeles Galaxy. This will make Rogers the first openly gay male athlete to compete in an American professional sport.

Rogers spoke exclusively to USA Today Sports, discussing his reasoning for coming out and coming back. The notion began to brew for Rogers after talking to a group of about 500 children at the Nike Be True LGBT Youth Forum:

“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?”

When Rogers initially came out, he wrote a blog about his decision entitled “The Next Chapter.” There, he described the pain of having to hide his true self from friends, family and teammates and how it affected his choice both to come out and to retire:

For the past 25 years I have been afraid, afraid to show whom I really was because of fear…Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams. Dreams of going to a World Cup, dreams of The Olympics, dreams of making my family proud.  What would life be without these dreams? Could I live a life without them? I always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined…Now is my time to step away. It’s time to discover myself away from football.  It’s 1 A.M. in London as I write this and I could not be happier with my decision. Life is so full of amazing things. I realized I could only truly enjoy my life once I was honest.  Honesty is a bitch but makes life so simple and clear.  My secret is gone, I am a free man, I can move on and live my life as my creator intended.

Later, in an interview with the UK Guardian, Rogers explained why he felt leaving the sport was the best choice on the heels of revealing his sexuality:

“I wouldn’t want to deal with the circus. Are people coming to see you because you’re gay? Would I want to do interviews every day, where people are asking: ‘So you’re taking showers with guys — how’s that? If you’re playing well it will be reported as: ‘The gay footballer is playing well.’ And if you have a bad game it’ll be: ‘Aw, that gay dude … he’s struggling because he’s gay.’ Fuck it. I don’t want to mess with that.”

Rogers is confident now - both in his identity and in the climate when he returns to pitch, saying he’s received an incredible outpouring of love and support from family fans and colleagues alike. One of his biggest proponents was longtime friend and teammate, Landon Donovan:

“I sat down with Landon and just wanted to get an idea of what he thought of me coming back and what the atmosphere might be like. Regardless of the perception, we both agreed that we are at our happiest when we are helping people. I believe I’m happy now because I know that I’m helping people.”

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