Former U.S. national team and Columbus Crew winger Robbie Rogers stunningly announced Friday that he will “step away” from soccer at age 25.
In a remarkably honest and reflective post on his personal blog, Rogers revealed that he is gay and opened up about how he had used the sport to hide his “secret.”
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.
… Now is my time to step away. It’s time to discover myself away from football. It’s 1 A.M. in London as I write this and I could not be happier with my decision. Life is so full of amazing things. I realized I could only truly enjoy my life once I was honest. Honesty is a bitch but makes life so simple and clear. My secret is gone, I am a free man, I can move on and live my life as my creator intended.
Many expected Rogers would return to MLS this season. After five seasons with the Crew, Rogers signed with Leeds United in January 2012. He was injured shortly after arriving and never made much of an impact at Leeds or while on loan to Stevenage. He was released last month. The Crew recently traded Rogers’ rights to the Chicago Fire, who announced at the time that they were trying to reach out to the midfielder. At the time, he tweeted his displeasure that his rights could be traded.
Rogers has 18 caps with the national team and played at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Rogers was one of the most naturally talented midfielders to come through the U.S. system, but he never seemed to reach his potential after a breakout season for the Crew in 2008. His letter gives some insight into the internal turmoil that could have affected his play.
Despite greater awareness and more players announcing they would support openly gay teammates, homosexuality remains a taboo subject in professional sports. There are very few openly gay male athletes, and Rogers is the first person to play for a team in the UK and come out as gay since the late 1970s.
Former Crew player David Testo came out in late 2011. Testo spent most of his career in Canada playing in the lower divisions of North American soccer and only briefly played in MLS. He has not signed for a team since the announcement.
While Testo’s announcement made headlines, Rogers’ will receive much more attention. If he decides to return to soccer, it would be an historic moment in sports. However, that seems like the furthest thing from his mind at least for now.
Andy Iro, a close friend and former teammate, told the Columbus Dispatch that Rogers was “adamant” that he is finished with soccer. He said Rogers had been debating for a while whether to make a statement or just fade away, but due to the interest from MLS teams and his place in U.S. soccer, that would have been difficult.
(UPDATE: Whiskey Brothers Aught Five, a supporters group for the Fire, wrote an open letter to Rogers, stating that they respect him and would welcome him to the Fire. Approximately seven hours after his post, Rogers thanked everyone for their love and support and said he was not expecting the reaction he received.)
Even if Rogers – who has a fashion line and has worked as a model – decides not to return, the outpouring of support he has received from fellow players could make it easier for others to find acceptance before they retire. Here are some of the first messages sent to Rogers on Twitter:
Dax McCarty (@DaxMcCarty11): Good for you brother. #respect
Juan Agudelo (@jagudelo11): Respect man. Proud of you bro.
Omar Gonzalez (@Omar4Gonzalez): Congrats, Robbie! Really happy for you.
AJ DeLaGarza (@AJD_20): good for you man! All the best! Terps
Jordan Harvey (@JordanCHarvey): Congrats brotha. Wish you the best
Drew Moor (@drewmoor): Nothing but love and support to you, Robbie. Hang in there bud….
Bryan Jordan (@BJ6): Others will thank u for being brave man. Congrats #Support
Stuart Holden (@stuholden): Much love and respect to my boy @robbierogers ! Proud to be your friend bro
Sacha Kljestan (@SachaKljestan): 100 percent love and support for one of my best friends Robbie Rogers. You will be missed on the pitch. Amazing talent, amazing person
Kasey Keller (@KaseyKeller18): 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.
Carlos Bocanegra (@BocaBoca3): proud of u buddy. Hope u only retire of ur over soccer and want to pursue other interests.