Robbie Rogers: Why He Left Soccer After Coming Out
By Jerry Portwood
After pro soccer player Robbie Rogers came out last month, he stayed mum. Now he's broken his silence for the first time, and he's doing it in a strategically splashy way—in the UK first with an exclusive story in the Guardian, followed by a rumored exclusive with the New York Times, according to a story in the UK newspaper.
It turns out Rogers was "besieged with large offers of money for interviews and contracts, as well as moving emails from thousands of people who have thanked him or asked how they might uncover the truth about themselves," according to the story. Although he turned down the money, he says he has replied to some of those ordinary people. The biggest question, however, was why did he decide to quit the sport after coming out publicly. The way he explains it, he felt like he couldn't handle the spotlight and continue to be a good player.
"In football it's obviously impossible to come out – because no-one has done it. No one. It's crazy and sad. I thought: 'Why don't I step away and deal with this and my family and be happy?' Imagine going to training every day and being in that spotlight? It's been a bit of a circus anyway – but that would have been crazy. And you wouldn't have much control because clubs are pushing you in different directions.
"I was just fearful. I was very fearful how my team-mates were going to react. Was it going to change them? Even though I'd still be the same person would it change the way they acted towards me – when we were in the dressing room or the bus?"
In the frank and open conversation, Rogers goes on to reiterate a truth that many people, in various fields, feel, the fact of being hemmed in by the label of their sexuality, stating: "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.' Fuck it. I don't want to mess with that."
Writer Donald McRae admits that Rogers doesn't seem to be hurting for opportunities. As he writes about Rogers:
"He flies to New York this weekend and will meet people at Ralph Lauren so they can decide whether he is suited to their new campaign. He has also won himself a place at the London School of Fashion and could begin a three-year course in September. But he might just have enough talent, contacts and nous to concentrate on Halsey – the menswear brand he co-owns in LA. And then, of course, there is football."
So it looks like we'll be seeing more of Rogers—on the fashion front. But does he think that there will be a gay athlete who comes out and continues to play. Rogers answers:
"Yes. I know things will change. There will be gay footballers. I just don't know when and how long it will take. The next step is how do you create an atmosphere where men and women feel it's OK to come out and continue to play? It's a great question. Football has so much history. It's a great sport with so much culture and tradition. But I'm positive there will be changes."
Watch a video interview with Rogers below: