The Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer have announced a deal with Robbie Rogers making him the first openly gay male active athlete to compete in an American professional team sport. Rogers, 26, told USA Today, "I have a platform and a voice to be a role model."
No other male athlete that has come out in a American contact sport has done it at the height of his career and at the success level achieved by Rogers. This bodes well for those who fear that coming out will hurt them financially or disrupt their careers by causing friction in the locker room or with the fan base.
Rogers’ age and success make him an ideal role model for gay male athletes in contact sports. He has had a career as an international player and champion. He played 18 international matches for the U.S. national team and won the 2005 NCAA championship with the University of Maryland. In 2008, he was named one of the best players in the MLS when he led the Columbus Crew to the MLS Cup.
Rogers had briefly retired from soccer back in February when he announced that he was gay. At the time, he told The Guardian that he "wouldn't want to deal with the circus" as the reason for his retirement. But since then he obviously has had a change of heart. "How much of a coward was I to not step up to the plate?" he explained to USA Today.
Rogers becomes the second gay male athlete playing in an American team sport to come out in as many months. Jason Collins, a free agent professional basketball player, came out last month in an exclusive interview with Sport Illustrated. Collins was the first male athlete to come out while still listed as an active player in one of the four main North American team sports. As a free agent, Collins is listed as an active player but is technically not under contract to play for any team.
Rogers and Collins represent a latent movement among gay athletes in contact sports to be open, out, and proud of their sexual orientation. Former NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo has hinted that as many as four current professional football players are contemplating coming out. Last year, Orlando Cruz became the first openly gay male boxer. At the time, he said, "I don't want to hide any of my identities I want people to look at me for the human being that I am."
Rogers summed up the feeling of being out and proud as an athlete by saying "life is simple when your secret is gone." Rogers, Collins and Cruz represent trailblazers in breaking the stereotypes associated with gay male athletes.