Late last week former US National Team and Major League Soccer player Robbie Rogers revealed through a late night blog post that he is gay and, additionally, would be stepping away from the game of soccer. He immediately became one of the most visible and accomplished professional athletes to have come out. If Rogers does decide to come back to the game he would become the most visible and well known LGBT athlete ever. If he did return, would he be welcomed back?
Brian Straus reported on Sporting News that Rogers's sexuality was far from a secret in the locker room during his playing days for the Columbus Crew of the MLS. Also noting that this fact did not inhibit the team from winning the MLS cup in 2008. In fact, Straus claims that soccer is one of the most likely sports to accept an openly gay player as fans of the sport tend to be younger, more diverse, and urbanized. This is reflected by the outpouring of support that Robbie Rogers received after the blog post was published. Almost immediately following the statements published by Rogers the US Soccer Federation came out in support of the young star, commending Rogers and wishing him success in the future. Many US National and international players, MLS players, and former teammates of Rogers tweeted their support of his decision to come out. These actions did not go unnoticed by sports media writers who generally felt that the reactions by those within the soccer community mark a step forward in the acceptance of LGBT players within professional soccer.
However, the fact that Rogers felt he had to make the statement in the first place, coupled with the fact that the soccer player only felt comfortable discussing it after he had stepped away from the game did not go unnoticed. There is a general reaction of happiness by those within the sports community that Rogers can now feel free and can accept himself after coming out. However, that didn't stop many from questioning why anyone should care whether an athlete is gay or not and why it is that such an importance is placed upon sexuality within professional sports. It has also been noted that the problem should not be whether or not Rogers could or could not live an open life in professional soccer but rather the fact that felt he could not. NESN made sure to note how soccer, for any athlete, should be a sanctuary where they can get away from any problems they might be having and just focus on the game. MLS has taken great strides to curb homophobia in the league, and it's clear that if Rogers ever did return to MLS, the league would welcome him.