Gay Soccer Player Robbie Rogers Joins LA Galaxy
Robbie Rogers is joining the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer in another step by openly gay athletes in professional sports.
He told The Associated Press his fears about returning to soccer were eased by the strong support he received from family, fans and players, including Galaxy star Landon Donovan. Now Rogers is ready to accept his role as the league's first openly gay player.
"I don't know what I was so afraid of," Rogers said Friday. "It's been such a positive experience for me. The one thing I've learned from all of this is being gay is not that big of a deal to people."
"People are just really growing and accepting and loving," he added. "Those other things are just not that important to them. I think as the younger get older and the generations come and go, I think times are just becoming more accepting."
The 26-year-old player had retired in February on the same day the former U.S. national team player publicly came out in a blog post.
Last month, NBA veteran Jason Collins came out, and Rogers spoke with Collins on the day of the center's announcement.
"I would have thought more athletes would have taken that step, I guess," Rogers said. "People have seen how accepting everyone has been of Jason's and my story. I think it's going to take just more time and more athletes coming out. It's all about seeing that it's not something to be afraid of. It's not going to hurt your career."
U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe came out last year before the London Olympics and plays for Lyon in France. She's expected to join the Seattle team of the new National Women's Soccer League in mid-June.
Brittney Griner, the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft by the Phoenix Mercury, and Seimone Augustus of the Minnesota Lynx are among that league's openly gay players. Sheryl Swoopes, a retired WNBA All-Star, came out in 2005 during her playing days.
The two-time defending champion Galaxy will announce a deal Saturday to acquire Rogers, who came out in February while simultaneously announcing his retirement.
Rogers is an MLS veteran who spent the last two seasons in England. About a month ago, Rogers decided he wasn't truly ready to give up soccer.
He trained with the Galaxy in recent weeks and hoped to continue his career in his native Southern California. The Galaxy made it happen by giving up high-scoring midfielder Mike Magee in a trade with the Chicago Fire, who held Rogers' MLS rights.
"I want to get back to soccer, which is what I love," Rogers said. "I get to do something I love, and I get to help people and be a positive role model. I'm really excited to set a great example for other kids that are going through the same thing I went through. It's a perfect world for me, a perfect world."
Rogers isn't likely to debut for Los Angeles immediately, although coach Bruce Arena thinks Rogers already is in decent shape despite 18 months with little match experience. Arena figures Rogers could be a strong contributor to the Galaxy by July.
"Certainly the league, and I think the fans, are going to be receptive in a real positive way," Arena told the AP. "But we're not in this to pioneer social issues. We're trying to win games as a team, and we're trying to produce the best team we can. Robbie has shown us that he has the potential to still be a real good player in our league, and that's what we're hopeful of."
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