On Robbie Rogers: Reflections on the Past Week
To say that the past week has been a whirlwind would be a bit of an understatement.
It was a stormy afternoon in Austin, Texas, last Friday. I thought I had caught a break in the rain and headed home only for the skies to open up again while I was riding the bus. I was soaked to the bone when I arrived in my apartment and after a week when I had to work both day and night shifts at my job, I was drenched, tired, and generally miserable.
Of course, the news started coming across Twitter while I was taking a long shower to warm up a bit. The LA Galaxy would be holding a press conference the next day and the buzz was that it was going to be an announcement of the trade for Robbie Rogers. I booked a flight.
It was JetBlue, so I could keep the television tuned to ESPN where SportsCenter featured Rogers hourly, calling it “sports history.” I got a little choked up when I stepped into the terminal and Rogers’ face was on a series of televisions in the airport bar. A crazy weekend was ahead.
I met up with our LA writer and man behind the tech of the site Tommy (who is owed a great deal of thanks for his hospitality) and we headed out to the Home Depot Center for training and the press conference where it was made official. Another out person joins the ranks of those playing top-tier soccer: Kai, Lindsey, Lohman, Rapinoe, Sanderson, and now Rogers. And beyond soccer it was likely that Robbie Rogers would become the first out man in America to play in a major professional league.
It wouldn’t take long for that first to happen. The Galaxy racked up four goals in the first half of Sunday night’s game against the Sounders and head coach Bruce Arena subbed Robbie Rogers into the game in the 77th minute of play. It was just a normal substitution, but with that sub a wall had been broken down. We no longer live in a country where there are no out men playing team professional sports.
I headed home Monday wondering what this all meant and what the lasting significance would be and my answer came as I was scanning Twitter. I saw eleven words:
“I want to be like Robbie Rogers when I grow up.”
There it is. The dream of a young gay man who wants to be a professional athlete became a little less impossible last weekend. Rogers has stepped up to be the first, and he did so with skill, grace, and eloquence. Hell, the way he carried himself through this historic moment–proud to be gay, a soccer player, and Christian–I want to be a bit more like Robbie Rogers, too.
The events of the past week far from mean the work is done. When it comes to Rogers, he still has milestones ahead with the Champions League this fall and a hoped return to the US Men’s National Team. There are also still men and women out there in soccer still not ready to step out publicly as gay or lesbian, and we need to make sure soccer is a safe space for all, not resting because of one success. When every player, fan, and staff member is comfortable being out about who they are, our sport will be better for it, just as it’s now a bit better for its having Robbie Rogers.