Back in April NBA player Jason Collins became the first openly gay male athlete in any major American professional sports team … technically. At the time of his coming out, Collins was in between basketball seasons so he has yet to actually play on a team as the first out gay male athlete. Last night, Robbie Rogers became the actual first openly gay male athlete in American professional sports team history as a member of the LA Galaxy. Rogers came out as gay earlier this year when he “retired” from professional soccer. Apparently, the retirement didn’t stick and the out Rogers was signed by the Galaxy … and he made history last night on the professional soccer field.
Before Sunday’s game against the Seattle Sounders, Robbie Rogers said he hoped he could make his Los Angeles Galaxy debut with his team holding a 4-0 lead. Rogers’ seemingly outlandish request came to fruition, as the winger became the first openly gay athlete to play in a U.S. professional team sports league when he entered the game as a substitute in the 77th minute. The Galaxy crowd cheered and Rogers sported a wide grin as he trotted onto the field. “I guess this is a historic thing, but for me it was just a soccer game,” Rogers said, according to The Associated Press. Rogers announced his return to soccer in a USA TODAY Sports story on Friday. The 26-year-old had retired in February after making his sexual orientation public. On Saturday, the Galaxy announced they had acquired Rogers in a trade with the Chicago Fire. Rogers had been training with the Galaxy for several weeks and remained in close contact with Landon Donovan while retired. “Because of the nature of the way sports has been for so many years — the macho culture that’s been embraced by everybody — it’s of interest to everybody,” Donovan said. “Now, hopefully, the hype about it is over and he can get back to being a soccer player, which is what he wants to do.” Rogers said the Galaxy’s next stretch of games will provide a good barometer for his conditioning. “I came into a situation where we were winning pretty heavily, so it’s not an accurate test,” Rogers said in a postgame interview. “The next few weeks will be the real test to see where I’m at.” The Galaxy mounted a 4-0 win on the heels of forward Robbie Keane’s hat trick.
Wow. I love that this is how it happened … seemingly out of the blue and instantly. A few days ago, no openly gay male athlete had ever played on an American professional sports team … and now that is no longer true. It starts with Robbie and will continue with Jason … and then there will be more openly gay male athletes in American sports. As I’ve been saying for some time now, the tide of progress is sweeping across this country … finally. For some, things aren’t changing fast enough, for others things are changing too quickly. For me, I’m just happy to celebrate each progression forward — no matter how big or small — with the excited anticipation of the next step to come. Congrats Robbie, you’ve made US sports history … and we are all the better for it.