I remember where I was when I first heard the news. I was watching SportCenter in my living room when ESPN reported that Jason Collins, formerly of the Boston Celtics, had come out.
He was gay, but not only that: he was the first openly gay active athlete in “any of the four major American sports.”
Immediately I couldn’t help but think that the timing was all a little bit too convenient for Collins. After all he is 34-years-old and, at best, a third string centre that has averaged 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in his career. Combine those circumstances with the fact that he’s a free agent and my mind was set: this wasn’t as big a deal as people thought it to be.
True enough, we were off the back of comments from NFL scouts regarding the questioning of linebacker Manti Te’o’s sexuality. These scouts were saying that some teams wouldn’t want to draft him if he were gay, that this sort of situation wouldn’t go down very well in the locker room.
It is obviously a very tough environment to be gay in, and while it shouldn’t be, it is pretty widely accepted that this is the attitude throughout all sports with regard to gay athletes.
It is probably why there are not more gay athletes who have felt comfortable coming out to team-mates in the past and the present.
However the attitude is changing. Gay people are rightly gaining the right to be married in several US states and in European countries that had not already passed laws allowing gay marriage. We are living in a time of social change and that will bleed over into the sporting world sooner rather than later.
Former Leeds United player, US international, and soon to be MLS player - be it with LA Galaxy, as rumoured, or elsewhere - Robbie Rogers is a big part of that change.
For me, Rogers is the pioneer for the changing of attitude in the sporting world. When he made the announcement that he was gay he was 25-years-old and in the prime of his footballing career.
The game will welcome him back with open arms.
Just as it did when he announced that he was gay. Players applauded his bravery and team-mates respected his decision to initially retire, but also hoped he would reconsider that decision.
He has. Rogers has been training with LA Galaxy recently with a view to getting back into football again.
The Chicago Fire currently owns Rogers’ rights, but Rogers has said he wouldn’t want to play in Chicago, as he wants to be nearer to his family. Chicago is currently looking for a trade partner, and if successful in finding one, Rogers would be the first openly gay athlete truly on an active roster in any sport in the world.
Despite my belief that the sporting world is changing, that there is less of a taboo surrounding the subject of a player’s sexuality, what Rogers is about to do is incredibly brave.
Being just 25, Rogers could have potentially ended his career by publicly announcing that he was gay.
However, Rogers will be respected in the locker room not because of the fact he has been this brave, but because of his work rate, his ability, and the fact that he is a US international. He should command respect wherever he goes.
Hopefully Chicago can find a trade partner, because it would be a waste of talent for Rogers to have to not come back to a game he is clearly in love with.
Rogers is the real American hero, the real pioneer; he just isn’t interested and self-indulgent. All Rodgers wants to do is play soccer and be himself.
So here’s to you Robbie, we all hope you get the recognition you deserve.
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