At the age of 25, US international and former Columbus Crew star Robbie Rogers came out as gay on Friday in a blog post titled, "The Next Chapter...".
Rogers, who made 18 appearances for the United States Men's National Team, was one of Major League Soccer's most promising players when he was with the Columbus Crew. After the 2011 season, he made the jump across the pond but struggled to get playing time with English side Leeds United. He was released by Leeds last month and has been without a club since.
In his blog post, Rogers also announced that he is "stepping away" from the game. He wrote:
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.
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… I will always be thankful for my career. I will remember Beijing, The MLS Cup, and most of all my teammates. I will never forget the friends I have made a long the way and the friends that supported me once they knew my secret.
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.
It's unclear whether Rogers is simply taking a break from soccer to gather himself and think about the future, or if he's truly retiring. But at the young age of 25 and with the talent he possesses, a comeback isn't out of the picture.
However, Shawn Mitchell. a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, tweeted:
One can only hope that Rogers' decision to put his career on hold was not solely based on the pressure of being the first high-profile gay soccer player. Injuries probably played a part in his choice as he's suffered from a concussion and an ankle injury.
There has been an outpour of respect and support for Rogers' announcement from fellow US soccer players and the soccer community.
100 percent love and support for one of my best friends Robbie Rogers. You will be missed on the pitch. Amazing talent, amazing person.— Sacha Kljestan (@SachaKljestan) February 15, 2013
Much love and respect to my boy @robbierogers ! Proud to be your friend bro— Stuart Holden (@stuholden) February 15, 2013
The bravery of Robbie Rogers in commendable, I hope he realizes that he doesn't need to retire.He will be more supported than he knows.— Kasey Keller (@KaseyKeller18) February 15, 2013
@robbierogers proud of u buddy. Hope u only retire of ur over soccer and want to pursue other interests.— Carlos Bocanegra (@BocaBoca3) February 15, 2013
Even England's FA offered its support to Rogers. Only a few non-US players have tweeted out their support for Robbie, and hopefully more join in. One of them is Joey Barton.
Can I just say well done to @robbierogers .Takes enormous amounts of courage to do what he's done. Fair play.— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) February 15, 2013
Colin Clark, who was suspended by MLS for directing a homophobic slur toward a ball boy during a match, also supported Rogers.
The courage @robbierogers has shown coming out is of the class most men can only dream of. I was lucky to call him a teammate.— Colin Clark (@cOlin_cLark11) February 15, 2013
If Rogers decides to continue to play, he'd be one of only a few openly gay players in all of soccer, let alone professional sports.
A return to MLS would see him with the Chicago Fire after Columbus traded his rights following his move to Leeds. Rogers was discontent after hearing that his rights were traded a few weeks ago.
Looking back, this could be because he felt comfortable in Columbus, and if he did return to MLS, being with a different team would've put him in a difficult position. In fact, writer Brian Straus is confident that most of Robbie's teammates in Columbus knew that he was gay.
Confident that most, if not all, in Crew locker room knew Rogers was gay. And it was fine. That's a good sign for others in RR's position.— Brian Straus (@BrianStraus) February 15, 2013
Andy Iro, one of Roger's former teammates with the Crew, said that Robbie had "been uncertain about if he was going to make a public statement or just fade out of the game." (h/t Shawn Mitchell)
Rogers could even play a role with the national team. With the lack of quality wingers, it's possible that Robbie could get a chance to play for the US again and ultimately play in next year's World Cup.
Tremendous respect has to be given to Rogers for having the courage to come out and make his announcement.
With racism already plaguing the soccer world, we don't need homophobia to be next. Fans and players alike can make a difference and welcome and embrace players who are gay.
We as a society are the only ones who can eliminate the fears and pressures associated with being gay. Hopefully, the time will be soon when everyone, including athletes, will not have to think twice about coming out.