Robbie Rogers: in a galaxy of his own


Jason Collins was the first to tell us. Britney Griner followed in his footsteps. Then Robbie Rogers stepped onto the pitch and did something truly incredible.

In what has been a token year for sports and homosexuality, the 26-year-old Rogers took the penultimate step toward universal acceptance by appearing in a Major League Soccer match for the Los Angeles Galaxy May 26. Rogers is the first active openly gay male athlete in the five major American sports and will be looked at as a trailblazer for years to come.

It was undoubtedly a struggle for Rogers to suit up-as it likely is for many athletes dealing with similar issues. In fact, he had initially stepped away from soccer in February after coming out; that he came back after deciding to leave makes the entire situation even more inspiring.

Perhaps a return to the pitch was all Rogers needed to feel a return to normal- cy. If that’s the case, it must have worked: the fans gave him a hearty cheer and he played 13 drama-free minutes in the Galaxy’s 4-0 victory. In the end, all Rogers did was play a soccer game. For a short period of time, he was on the same playing field, both literally and figuratively, as his peers. The most impressive part about this groundbreaking moment-and the aspect that should give all gay athletes confidence in their fight for equality-is how it didn’t feel groundbreaking at all. It felt so normal, it seemed as though nothing unique was happening at all. People appear to be more accepting of homosexuality in sports, and it’s not because of the sudden spate of announcements by athletes. It’s because, quite simply, America is reaching the point where it will soon be safe for people in the LGBTQA com- munity to live their lives without fear of excessive and unnecessary discrimination.

Rogers is now a leader in that community. There are few niches with as much of a following as sports, and the fact that homosexuality is coming to the forefront of that platform means that more people will be able to follow it and take initiative. Rogers now has the floor and will be looked at for inspiration and guidance.

There is a good chance that Rogers will not be the first openly gay athlete to play in 2013. The NHL and NFL are each on the cusp of a similar revolution, and Collins will likely sign a contract with a new team once the new NBA season gets under way. But Rogers is the original, the first of what will hopefully become many.

This event was met with as much fanfare as a typical postgame press conference, which means that more athletes will realize that maybe coming out isn’t as momentous a decision as previously thought. Rogers, Griner, and Collins have set the stage, they have started the process of finally gaining universal acceptance. They’ve done the hardest part: introducing people to what is really going on behind the scenes in professional sports. It’s inspiring, it’s historic, and it has ensured that someday we will watch our sports without a second thought about whether or not the athlete with the ball is straight or gay.