Sometimes the most courageous acts come from deep within. From acknowledging who you are. Such was the case on Friday Feb 15th when Robbie Rogers, a US Men’s National Team soccer player posted to his blog the following entry:
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. Full post here.
There are few openly gay soccer players, such as Robbie Rogers, for good reason. In the intensely male world of men’s professional soccer, being gay has not been seen as a possibility if you wanted to be successful in your career. In 2011, David Testo, a former soccer player with the Major League Soccer team, Montreal Impact, came out. He has not played since and is now retired.
There are signs that this may begin to change. I was surprised to watch the rapid response on Twitter from the soccer community to Robbie’s tweet, all of it overwhelmingly positive. From big names in the sport, from men he played with. While Robbie is living in London, the rights to him as a player, should he return to the MLS, was recently traded to the Chicago Fire. A supporters group of the Chicago Fire wrote an open letter to Robbie Rogers saying that they respected him and should he ever choose to return to the MLS they would welcome him to their team. A former teammate and coach of Robbie’s are now with the MLS team the Seattle Sounders. The team made a quick video on Friday showing their support of Robbie.
See, Robbie both announced that he was gay and that he was “stepping away” from the game at the same time. If his coming out was linked to his leaving the game, he did not say in his blog post, but one might suppose that there is a strong link. While some might have hoped that he would follow Jackie Robinson in breaking a sports barrier by staying in the sport, he has still courageously set an example as the first male soccer player on the men’s national team to disclose that he is gay.
It is sad that we live in a world where athletes feel that they need to live secret lives. Given the response to Robbie Rogers’ post today, I would say that the MLS community is perhaps one league that might be ready to have an openly gay player. Would it be hard? Absolutely. Would there be issues publicly and privately that would need to be addressed? I am sure there would be. But, in my eternal optimism and hope for the future, I believe we can all work toward a time when gay athletes can stop leading secret “don’t ask, don’t tell lives.” In allowing all of our athletes to be who they are, we not only empower them to perform better on the pitch, but we also empower ourselves to be better human beings.
Slide show of Twitter reaction to Robbie’s announcement can be found on the Huffinton Post blog.