Coming Out in the World of Sports

Robbie Rogers

Robbie Rogers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a personal blog post, Robbie Rogers came out as a gay man Feb. 15, announcing that he is stepping away from professional soccer.

The declaration, a year-and-a-half after Rogers scored the equalizer against Mexico in Jürgen Klinsmann‘s coaching debut, has sent – and is still sending – tremors through the world of sport.

Amongst those responding to the news on twitter: U.S. national team captain Carlos Bocanegra tweeted (“proud of u buddy”) and retired U.S. and international star Kasey Keller Tweeted (“The bravery of Robbie Rogers [is] commendable”).

In a blog entitled ‘The Next Chapter’, Rogers writes:

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 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.

The Chicago Fire MLS bought the rights to Rogers, who had left U.S. professional soccer back in 2011 from the Columbus Crew and had begun a brief stint with third-tier English team Stevenage.

Fire coach and technical manager Frank Klopas said in a story Friday, Feb. 15, on the team website that Rogers’ announcement would not influence his status with the team in any way: “Yesterday I thought he was a very good player and I still think that today. Should Robbie want to return to the game, we would still be open to him being a part of the Fire.”

“Brave men like you will make it so that one day there’s no need for an announcement. That day can’t arrive soon enough,” tweeted Eddie Pope, a veteran of three World Cups.

“Much love and respect for you,” tweeted U.S. teammates Herculez Gomez. D.C. United’s Chris Pontius, the Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez and women’s national team star Abby Wambach all tweeted their same respect for him as well.

National Football League Draft

National Football League Draft (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This comes at a time when the National Football League teams are asking prospective players about their sexuality. Take, for instance, when ABC talk show host Katie Couric asked Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o whether he was gay in his first public interview after the story broke, to which he replied, “No, far from it, far from it.”

Currently, NFL teams want to know the same thing of the expected first-round draft pick at the league’s annual scouting combine, according to NBC and Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who told radio host Dan Patrick that the issue of Te’o’s sexuality has become “the elephant in the room” for NFL teams interested in drafting him.

A second player, University of Colorado tight end Nick Kasa, said Wednesday, Feb. 27, that NFL teams had asked questions about his sexuality.

Kasa told an ESPN Radio affiliate in Denver that teams have asked him whether he has a girlfriend and if he likes girls, Queerty noted:

“[Teams] ask you, like, ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ Are you married? Do you like girls?’ Those kinds of things, and you know it was just kind of weird. But they would ask you with a straight face, and it’s a pretty weird experience altogether.”

In 2011, the NFL and the NFL Players Association added sexual orientation to the league’s nondiscrimination statute, efficiently barring NFL teams from using sexuality as a factor in employment decisions.

The NFL will investigate the line of questioning, it said in a statement to CBS Sports. “Like all employers, our teams are expected to follow applicable federal, state and local employment laws.”

Does it matter if an athlete is publicly gay? Should it matter to the teammates or the fans? No, it shouldn’t. But at the same time, many members of the public have applauded Rogers for his bravery of coming out the way he did and focusing on his life.

Looking to the future, fans and participants could see more athletes like Rogers coming out and making an impact in the LGBT community of sports.


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