Three months after coming out as gay and stepping away from the game, midfielder Robbie Rogers has signed with the LA Galaxy according to multiple reports. MLS rights to Rogers, who previously played in the league for Columbus Crew from 2007 to 2011, were owned by the Chicago Fire, but Rogers didn't want to play for them. So after casually training with the Galaxy over the last several weeks, a trade was finally worked out, sending midfielder Mike Magee to Chicago in exchange for Rogers, who is now the first openly gay player in MLS. And according to ESPN, he is also "the first active openly gay male athlete to compete in an American professional team sport."
Rogers came out in February with a moving post on his personal blog, saying "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." At the end of March, he told the Guardian that it was "impossible" to be gay in football.
"I might be strong enough but I don't know if that's really what I want. I'd just want to be a footballer. I wouldn't want to deal with the circus. Are people coming to see you because you're gay? Would I want to do interviews every day, where people are asking: 'So you're taking showers with guys – how's that?'
"If you're playing well it will be reported as: 'The gay footballer is playing well.' And if you have a bad game it'll be: 'Aw, that gay dude … he's struggling because he's gay.' F*** it. I don't want to mess with that."
But then, NBA player Jason Collins came out and though he hasn't played since his announcement (he's currently a free agent), Rogers says he started to "feel like a coward" for not doing so himself. From USA Today:
Rogers' epiphany to return to the game came when he spoke to a group of about 500 kids at the Nike Be True LGBT Youth Forum in Portland last month.
"I seriously felt like a coward," he tells USA TODAY Sports in an exclusive interview about his return. "These kids are standing up for themselves and changing the world, and I'm 25, I have a platform and a voice to be a role model. How much of a coward was I to not step up to the plate?"
Rogers will be formally unveiled as a Galaxy player on Saturday. But he also told USA Today that the MLS is just the beginning of what he wants to achieve on the pitch. With 18 caps for the U.S. national team to his credit, he was to resume his international career and hopes to play in the 2014 World Cup.
"I want to get past the point where I was before," he says. "I want to get back to the national team. I was so close to making the World Cup in 2010, I want to be there for the next one."
Rogers obviously has a lot of work to do to get back to that level and all the media attention he will surely get in the coming months could make that more difficult. But this begins the road towards getting past the circus he spoke of March and getting back to just doing what he loves. In February he felt freed from the "internal damage" of holding his secret by being honest and now he's ridding himself of "feeling like a coward" by being brave. There's a lot that others can learn from Robbie Rogers.