In a move that will shock many in the soccer community, former United States national team member and Leeds United winger Robbie Rogers announced his retirement from the sport at just 25 years old in an open letter to fans on Friday.
But it's his second announcement in the letter that may shake the foundation of the entire sports landscape. In the fifth paragraph of the letter, which talks about the winger accomplishing his dreams in the sport, Rogers came out publicly as a gay man for the first time:
Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay. Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently.
UPDATE: Friday, Feb. 15, at 4:55 ET by Tyler Conway
The Football Association has come out in support of Rogers in wake of his announcement. In a release on its official website, Darren Bailey, the Director of Football Governance and Regulation said the following:
Following the announcement by Robbie Rogers on Friday, The FA is trying to make contact with him offering our support. Whether Robbie stays in the game or steps away for a break he has our full backing.
Not to be outdone, a bevy of former teammates and notable faces in the soccer world also reached out to Rogers to lend their support:
Benny Feilhaber @b_feilhaber22
@robbierogers proud to call you my friend. #respect2/15/2013, 5:19:30 PM
Stuart Holden @stuholden
Much love and respect to my boy @robbierogers ! Proud to be your friend bro2/15/2013, 6:04:30 PM
Sacha Kljestan @SachaKljestan
100 percent love and support for one of my best friends Robbie Rogers. You will be missed on the pitch. Amazing talent, amazing person.2/15/2013, 5:33:59 PM
Charlie Davies @CharlieDavies9
@robbierogers Really proud of you bro! See you soon2/15/2013, 6:09:24 PM
---End of Update---
Rogers' international career was mostly one of middling success. He was a member of the United States national team for nearly a decade, starting with the under-20 club and eventually working his way up to the senior squad. Under then-head coach Bob Bradley, Rogers made 18 total appearances from 2009-2011, scoring two goals.
Rogers was much more successful on the club side. He spent five seasons as a starting winger as a member of the Columbus Crew of MLS before moving over to Leeds United of the Football League Championship in England for the 2011-12 season, where he made four total appearances before being released last month.
While some will remember Rogers for his on-field accomplishments, his announcement on Friday will undoubtedly make massive waves in the mainstream.
The cultural phenomenon of homosexuality in sports has been under an increased microscope in recent years. The United States' four major professional sports leagues have yet to see an active player come out publicly, a fact that is oftentimes blamed on the "locker room" culture.
A recent example of this happened during the Super Bowl XLVII media week, when San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver came under fire for his derogatory comments about homosexuality. He later apologized and will undergo counseling (h/t Chris Wesseling, NFL.com).
Rogers represents the other side of the coin. His letter spoke of the "pain that lurks in the stomach at work" and that the soccer field was his "escape" from the realities of his homosexuality.
With retirement afoot, it seems Rogers has finally come to grips with that reality.
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