After weeks of speculation, Robbie Rogers finally got to play again.
Before last night’s LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders game, newly acquired and openly gay Galaxy midfielder Robbie Rogers told ESPN, “I’m hoping that I can come on and it’s 4-0 and I can just enjoy myself.” Interestingly enough, it was actually 4-0 when Rogers was subbed into the game at the 77 minute mark. He was welcomed to Los Angeles and back to the MLS with a standing ovation and an eruption of cheers from the Galaxy fans.
Rogers simply smiled and played his game the way he normally played. He was back home on a soccer field. He is a subdued, positive-seeming interview subject and the elation that he felt before, during and after the game was palpable.
Rogers said that he was happy to not only return to soccer, but to return to the sport in his hometown of Los Angeles.
“I definitely think it’s helped me come back to L.A. It’s definitely helped me to play in front of my family, play in front of my friends,” he said.
While Outsports.com reminded us today that, in fact, Major League Lacrosse goalie Andrew Goldstein was the first openly gay active male athlete to play in a professional American sport, Rogers had his coming out experience on a bigger level due to the coverage of Major League Soccer in relation to Major League Lacrosse. Rogers wasn’t the first openly gay athlete to play, apparently, and was not the first of the “Big Four” – NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL – to come out (that was Jason Collins), but the fact the he is out and he played and his team won, is all that matters.
Hopefully, other closeted athletes or non-athletes can see him leading by example and follow in his footsteps. Rogers is one of the first male athletes to come out, but he is far from the last one to do so.
And as OutSports wrote about Rogers, the fans didn’t really care that he was gay, as long as he could play.
A reporter at the game told me that the atmosphere at the stadium was nothing out of the ordinary, despite Rogers’ presence. Fans he spoke with were blase about Rogers being gay. One even said he might boo Rogers, not because he was gay but because he was replacing the popular player Mike Magee, who was traded to the Chicago Fire for Rogers. Being booed for a soccer reason, not a social one, is a sign that Rogers will fit in just fine.
As an Angeleno and casual Galaxy fan myself, I am proud to have Rogers on my team, though I will miss Mike Magee. He was the team’s leading scorer! But, I digress.