BY PATRICK MacDONALD
In today’s society, it’s always shocking when a player so young and talented steps away from the realm of professional sports. For many of us not blessed with the gifts of such superior athleticism, it’s hard to understand why someone would give up the glory many can only dream of.
Robbie Rogers, recently released from Leeds United in England and with his MLS rights traded to the Chicago Fire, has decided to hang it up at the age of 25. It wasn’t due to injury, though that was an issue at Stevenage. Instead, in a candid statement on his website, Robbie Rogers told the world that he is gay and announced his immediate departure from the world of football.
Rogers says that football was his escape from his secret. Now that he is finally telling the world about who he is, he feels he needs to “discover himself” away from the world of soccer.
One has to respect that decision. As someone who has never been down the personal road of Rogers, I cannot imagine how difficult it was for him to keep that secret, living in fear about admitting to the world, or perhaps even to oneself, who he truly was.
It is funny how life works though. I must now wonder if the trading of his rights to the Chicago Fire from the Columbus Crew was in fact a blessing. Rogers vented his anger rather publicly at Major League Soccer’s archaic free agency system that denied him the choice of where to play. However, now it may seem that soccer, and specifically Columbus, ceased to be the escape he always had.
And that choice was his.
Perhaps it pushed him to finally be honest with himself and the world.
My hope is that once he finds peace and happiness with himself, Rogers does return to the game. His success abroad and with the National Team maybe iffy (though getting injured shortly in his Leeds tenure didn’t help), but his talent is undeniable. He has plenty left to give this game on the field.
He also has plenty to give off the field – not only for soccer, but for the world of sports. There has never been an openly gay professional athlete in American sports that remained in the game. The first, whether it’s Rogers or someone else, would do wonders to help eradicate the stigmas that still exist, as evidenced by Chris Culliver’s ill advised comments before the Super Bowl. Just looking at the social media world that applauded Rogers for his decision Friday afternoon, it appears that fan and media reaction suggests America is ready to cheer a gay man on.
So Robbie Rogers, as a writer, as a fan, and as a Christian, I applaud you. I wish you the best of luck on your new journey. And once you find peace, I encourage you to return to the sport that you love and allow the fans to give you the adulation you deserve for your triumphs, both on the field and off.
Soccer and the world need more people like you.