LOS ANGELES — 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 pl ayer 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.”
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.
“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.”
Article continues belowRogers 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.
“I had a lot of fear to come back to the game,” Rogers said, remembering countless instances of homophobia everywhere from the stands to locker rooms.
“I was just afraid I was putting myself in an environment that in the past had affected my mental health because I always felt like an outcast. I felt that I couldn’t be myself.”
“But it’s been amazing,” he added. “It’s been normal, just as it should be. I’m a soccer player. I happen to be gay, but I’m a professional soccer player, and I have been since I was 18, 19. … I’m just really excited to go back to the game, and excited to deal with these stupid stereotypes that are out there with athletes and the gay community, just a bunch of different things.”
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