Feb 16, 2013, 9:05 AM EDT
I am remarkably proud of our soccer nation today.
Going way back, I have always thought of soccer fans as a slightly more enlightened breed. Historically you cannot have worn the soccer label in this country without some ability to think for yourself; there was always a ninny out there telling you to get in line and support the “traditional” American sports.
Friday proved it, when a person previously reluctant to be the best version of himself brought out the very best side of the collective U.S. soccer supporter nation.
Robbie Rogers did something on Friday that took tremendous courage, coming out as a gay man. The American soccer supporters reacted with an overwhelming, inspiring show of support.
Men’s professional sports remain hard-wired into a certain machismo and some corresponding old ways of thinking when it comes to matters of women and sexuality. Individually, we may have become more enlightened and permissive as a society, but evolution within a group dynamic has been harder to come by.
Believe it: what Rogers did took vast stores of backbone.
Even at the highest levels, they did more than just let Rogers know what he did was OK; they acknowledged the breakthrough and the bravery:
Rogers has appeared 18 times for the full national team. That’s exactly what helped make this so significant and newsworthy; Rogers was hardly some obscure figure in the game, once among the most promising young American talent. A 2008 Olympic team member, the speedy left winger quite nearly landed a World Cup roster spot back in 2010, just as he turned 23.
From the playing community, the outpouring was nothing short of inspirational, so much of it delivered publicly via Twitter, so many punctuated by a hashtag of earnest admiration and understanding: #respect
And so many were more than just “We got your back.” Longtime U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller, for instance, said what was on so many minds, something becoming more and more evident as the public support mounted. “The bravery of Robbie Rogers in commendable, I hope he realizes that he doesn’t need to retire. He will be more supported than he knows”
MLS players gathered in Arizona for a preseason tournament were scheduled for a round of video interviews, so they took the opportunity to support Rogers on camera.
The Seattle Sounders did a video of their own. That was capped with an MLS public service message where prominent players, including Landon Donovan and Dwayne De Rosario, advised that the league was a no-bullying, no-racism, no-sexism and no-homophobia zone. It also included a statement of support from Marc Burch, who was caught on camera last year in bigoted moment. (Burch subsequently and profusely apologized for his poor choice of words.)
Players from the league champion LA Galaxy voiced their support.
Like Burch, Galaxy midfielder Colin Clark had a particularly bad moment in 2012. He was suspended early last year for directing a homophobic slur toward a young ball boy (for which he went out of his way to humbly make amends). So Clark’s show of support particularly resonated.
Meanwhile, the support from fans was similarly overwhelming – and overwhelmingly positive. Even Rogers was taken aback.
Colleague Brian Straus from The Sporting News, also wrote of the stunning stream of support. He eloquently nailed the U.S. soccer fan dynamic here that creates a more accepting collective.
Thanks to American soccer’s unique demographics, there likely is no sports league in this part of the world more prepared to accept an active gay player than MLS. Soccer remains somewhat counter culture in the U.S. and Canada. MLS fans often are young and urban. Many of the league’s players are well traveled or well educated. The “New America” that so many pundits discussed during last fall’s presidential election—diverse in some ways, cosmopolitan in others—is far more likely to embrace soccer than the old.
We all deserve to be the best that we can be. No one should be relegated to the outer markers, circling the airport, afraid to land at the fullest version of themselves.
American soccer at large took the opportunity to remind Rogers of that, and tell him that we’re all good here.
Aug 22, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT
Toffees and Gunners clash, Liverpool head to Man City, London derby time and much more.
Aug 22, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT
Goal, assist from Dutch star helped deliver Bayern three points to open the Bundesliga season.
Aug 22, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT
Can Villa continue their good start to the season? Watch live, Saturday 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN.
Aug 22, 2014, 3:17 PM EDT
Birmingham City, 1860 Munich, Millwall, Nurnberg… it seems Brek Shea is a man in demand when it comes to his loan from Stoke City.
Aug 22, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT
The Bavarians added Robert Lewandowski, and look poised to lead again. Who are the favorites to emerge in the race for second?
Aug 22, 2014, 2:29 PM EDT
Matchweek 2 brings a few killer games including Everton v. Arsenal on Saturday and Manchester City v. Liverpool on Monday.
Aug 22, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
From the early days in Italy, to the craziness of Man City and then back to AC Milan, here’s the timeline of Balotelli’s life so far.
Aug 22, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT
The 19-year-old American attacker’s only senior appearance for Bayern was a Champions League sub. That could change today.
Aug 22, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
Probably not, but with Sevilla and Barcelona strengthening while Atletico deals with roster tumult, look for some changes near the top.
Aug 22, 2014, 12:46 PM EDT
PSV Eindhoven called the police, upping the ante on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Aug 22, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT
Where and how to watch every single PL game in Week 2, right here.
Aug 22, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT
A young Brazilian is the newest name linked with Louis van Gaal, while Manchester City could be selling a top young defender
Aug 22, 2014, 10:59 AM EDT
Jones wants to head to Chicago, and wants more money if he goes to New England.
Aug 22, 2014, 10:08 AM EDT
Nantes is off to another strong start, and Ale Bedoya’s club now stares down a match-up with Monaco.
Aug 22, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT
Labeling vile statements in text messages “friendly banter” has Cardiff in a frenzy, and looking for fresh consequences.
Aug 22, 2014, 8:50 AM EDT
Arseanl boss calls Everton an important test while praising Liverpool’s impending acquisition.
Aug 22, 2014, 8:16 AM EDT
The Reds were still sorting out Balotelli’s personality and commitment, and missed a deadline to have him play for the club this weekend.
Aug 22, 2014, 7:36 AM EDT
The 29-year-old Greek national teamer will try to rebuild his Premier League image after tough times in Manchester from 2006-08.
Aug 22, 2014, 2:13 AM EDT
LA’s loss is RSL’s gain at the top of our pecking order.
Aug 21, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
“Cubo” gets his first call from Miguel Herrera, while two established names stay in Europe.
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