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Former U.S. international Robbie Rogers retires and comes out as gay

Feb 15, 2013, 1:37 PM EDT

Houston Dynamo v Columbus Crew Getty Images

Former U.S. national team winger Robbie Rogers rocked the domestic soccer world Friday with a post on his personal blog, and then with a Twitter message that reverberated (and will continue to do so) at so very many angles.

He’s retiring at age 25.

And he’s gay.

Last year, former MLS player David Testo came out as gay, but that was well after the conclusion of his playing days. Rogers’ revelation will land with greater impact because of his prominence in U.S. soccer over the last few years. He has 18 full national team appearances and recently engineered a high-profile transfer to one of England’s storied clubs, Leeds United.

An earnest and heartfelt post on Rogers’ personal blog provided the details from a talented player who has clearly struggled with this. The post was titled “The Next Chapter.”

Things are never what they seem… My whole life I have felt different, different from my peers, even different from my family. In today’s society being different makes you brave.  To overcome your fears you must be strong and have faith in your purpose.

“For the past 25 year I have been afraid, afraid to show whom I really was because of fear. Fear that judgment and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations.   Fear that my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret.  Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams.

“…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 always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined… I will always be thankful for my career. I will remember Beijing, The MLS Cup, and most of all my teammates.  I will never forget the friends I have made a long the way and the friends that supported me once they knew my secret.” 

Rogers alerted the world to the news with a Twitter post (below). The revealing Tweet poignantly followed one from two hours earlier.

(MORE: American soccer community voices overwhelming, inspiring support)

Rogers struggled to gain a toehold at Leeds over the last year, damaging his ability to do so with an injury straight away following his move from the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer. He was loaned out to Stevenage in England’s third tier but failed to last. He seemed to be tumbling out of the game when Leeds announced earlier this month that his contract would be terminated by mutual consent.

(MORE: Great insight into Rogers’ weighty decision)

Rogers has been without a team over the last month; Columbus recently traded his MLS rights to Chicago, although he never indicated interest in returning to Major League Soccer.

This does, perhaps, shed some light on why such a talented figure was having such professional difficulty, having lost traction on his playing career.

I happened to be standing next to an MLS general manager when we heard the news. He said he perfectly: “You hope he can find some peace with it all.”

(The screen grab below does not include a “live” link; you can find that link to his blog post above)

source:

  1. dfstell - Feb 15, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    I wish him the best. It’s sad if any part of his retirement or playing struggles over the last year have been related to turmoil in his personal life or fear at how he’d be perceived as a gay player. I can’t imagine what life would be like if I felt like I needed to keep my wife secret from my co-workers.

    Hopefully he can find a place where he’s happy as a person with some career that he finds fulfilling.

  2. dws110 - Feb 15, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    He’s retiring?!?! I knew he kind of fell off the radar when he went to England, but I can’t be the only one blown away by that. I guess I didn’t know his Leeds contract was up.

  3. tylerbetts - Feb 15, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    I really hope he’s retiring because of HIS mindset and the internal turmoil he feels. I’d hate it if he were retiring because he felt as if a gay male cannot make it as a professional athlete.

    I suppose the revelation about inner turmoil and the impact that has to have on you helps explain a good bit of his career path. He always seemed like a great talent wasted – someone who couldn’t get it to click.

    If this is the permanent end for his career, I’ll have fond memories of him. Anyone who scores against Mexico while wearing the red, white, and blue has a special place in my heart, even if it was only a friendly. And his playoff goal against Colorado was the first time my wife was startled by me screaming while watching MLS on TV.

  4. mikeevergreen - Feb 15, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Who gives a rat’s ass that he’s gay? Retiring from sports because you’re gay is so 90’s. Robbie, your rights are owned by Chicago Fire, and their offense REEKS! Reconsider. NOW!

  5. dreadpirate82 - Feb 15, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    I love the reactions from fans who look at it solely from a soccer perspective, as most soccer fans in the US seem to be so open-minded about a player’s sexuality that it doesn’t matter. It says a lot to me about how far our country has come that people just want him to play for their team. Awesome.

    That being said, I really hope he comes back quickly, as I think he could be a major hero to many people. If he does, I think his will quickly become the top-selling jersey in MLS.

    • brittkamp - Feb 15, 2013 at 4:51 PM

      I have to say the reactions of fans and players (all) have been very heartwarming! I will say that my favorite reply and shows what an athlete’s sexuality truly means to today’s soccer fans was on big soccer when someone stated ” Retiring Robbie?!! that BS man, my team needs wingers!!”

      Good luck in your future, Mr. Rogers

      • dreadpirate82 - Feb 15, 2013 at 4:59 PM

        Amen.

  6. player169 - Feb 15, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    Quitting soccer because you came out of the closet is a pretty dumb reason to not play the game anymore…especially when you are good enough to make a comfortable living at it. Whatever, it’s his life. It’s not the 1st decision of his I’ve questioned…

    Good luck to you…

    P.s. – Most sold jersey… -1. Hope you weren’t serious…

    • dreadpirate82 - Feb 15, 2013 at 4:50 PM

      100% serious. The first openly gay MLS player would become a cult hero and garner attention outside of traditional sports media. Non-soccer fans would buy his jersey like crazy.

      I would also say we haven’t learned much on why he’s stepping away from the game. He has an internship with Men’s Health, so maybe he’s simply interested in other career paths. Maybe the continued injury troubles were wearing on him. I would assume a lot more information is still to come on this story.

  7. florean - Feb 15, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    It’s worth noting that he never says he is retiring. He says that he is stepping away from soccer, which sounds much less permanent. If you read his post, he feels that he has thrown himself into his soccer career partially to suppress his sexuality. He is struggling with his Christianity and homosexuality and he needs to figure out who he is without soccer. Hopefully once he does that, once he reaches some peace with himself, he’ll decide that he can be who he is while still playing soccer. Maybe not. But considering he’s only 25, I think it is an impressive display of maturity from him. It isn’t an easy process and I wish him all the best.

    • it's all bs - Feb 15, 2013 at 5:20 PM

      amen and nicely done florean!!!

  8. nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 15, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    To all gay athletes in pro sports in North America: Please, those of you at least whose talents aren’t so marginal that you might be “on the bubble” as to your pro status, come on out of the damn closet already. You do no one any good in such confinement, especially yourself. And with this being the 21st century, I’m certain you will find that few people care more about your orientation than your ability to help your team win. Some idiots will care, because, well, they’re idiots. People who truly love you will still truly love you. True friends will remain true friends. You’ll feel healthier being a whole person. Come on out and let’s put all this “is so and so gay” nonsense in the past where it belongs.

  9. carryingconcealed - Feb 15, 2013 at 6:11 PM

    Barry Bonds retires and comes out as straight.

    Roger Clemens retires and comes out as straight.

    Jose Conseco retires and comes out as straight.

    Steve Young retires and comes out as straight.

    Michael Irvin retires and comes out as straight.

    WHO GIVES A FLYING PHUK?!

    This story right here proves conclusively that it isn’t just equal rights that homosexuals want; it’s attention that they really want.

    What a pathetic, self-serving agenda…

    • florean - Feb 15, 2013 at 6:36 PM

      If this was about attention, he’d be doing interviews. Here’s what Andy Iro said about Robbie’s decision to post it on his blog:

      I know he’s been basically trying to decide if he should do it for a little while, whether he was going to make a formal statement or whether he would just drift off. For him, he thought maybe he’d just kind of take some time and hopefully he’d be forgotten about. But it’s Robbie Rogers. He almost made a World Cup team, most MLS teams would have wanted to have him and he was part of one of the biggest teams here in England. I think a lot of people were asking what he was going to do next and the statement was just closure to the matter.

      The phrase “hopefully he’d be forgotten about” breaks my heart.

      • tylerbetts - Feb 15, 2013 at 6:53 PM

        Well said.

    • dreadpirate82 - Feb 15, 2013 at 7:30 PM

      You do realize that there isn’t a single openly gay (male) athlete actively playing in a major professional sports league, don’t you? All about the attention? Really? This is a man who has clearly been hurting inside. He didn’t go on a publicity blitz to draw attention to himself. He just announced the facts to the world via his blog and Twitter. It’s brave.

      You say that it’s all about attention, using attention whores like Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, and Michael Irvin as examples. Not really helping your case there.

      Excellent points by florean.

    • mvktr2 - Feb 16, 2013 at 5:14 AM

      This story proves that Robbie Rogers has been going in a career spiral for more than 12 months. Logic tells us his internal struggles have either played a part in his career struggles or have brought them to the surface. Additionally Robbie appears to be a person of faith and that too is playing a role in what sounds at this point to be a ‘self-evaluation process’. We all go summers and winters, peaks and valleys in this life. A moral response to a man struggling so hard professionally and internally yet brave enough to look at the man in the mirror and be honest is to support and honor his quest to find himself. I happen to be a minister and my faith doesn’t endorse homosexuality, however it is a part of humanity and no one should go through life having to bear the cross that Robbie Rogers has obviously been bearing for quite some time. I think Robbie is an immensely brave man and soccer will be all the poorer if he leaves the game. I hope he finds happiness and peace with who he is and makes his way in the world a stronger better man irregardless of his sexual orientation or athletic prowess. As for soccer, what team doesn’t need width and speed in the attack. Hopefully one day that’ll be the greatest and only relevant concern with players independent of other factors… alas sports doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

  10. florean - Feb 15, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    It’s interesting how so many people thing homosexuality is about sex.

  11. buzz29 - Feb 15, 2013 at 7:34 PM

    While the name “Robbie” may have been an indicator, no one should be surprised or care. He happens to be gay. Others happen to be straight. Others happen to be bi. Big deal.

  12. mvktr2 - Feb 16, 2013 at 5:24 AM

    The two most telling comments I’ve read on this story have come from fans. The first was a good humored joke of ‘I thought all midfielders were gay, signed central defender’. The other more salient point made above was ‘I can’t imagine having to hide my wife from my coworkers.’ That’s a punch in the gut of truth!

    I hope Robbie feels loved and respected given the outpouring of support he’s received from his peers and so many fans. I’ll add he’s correct, he was created for a purpose. Much of that purpose for all of us is to love our neighbor. In coming out Robbie has provided a very strong example for many many young people struggling with their sexuality. If you’re struggling find help, mental health help, spiritual health help. Good luck and God’s speed Mr. Rogers!

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