Former U.S. national team winger Robbie Rogers rocked the domestic soccer world Friday with a post on his personal blog, and then with a Twitter message that reverberated (and will continue to do so) at so very many angles.
He’s retiring at age 25.
And he’s gay.
Last year, former MLS player David Testo came out as gay, but that was well after the conclusion of his playing days. Rogers’ revelation will land with greater impact because of his prominence in U.S. soccer over the last few years. He has 18 full national team appearances and recently engineered a high-profile transfer to one of England’s storied clubs, Leeds United.
An earnest and heartfelt post on Rogers’ personal blog provided the details from a talented player who has clearly struggled with this. The post was titled “The Next Chapter.”
Things are never what they seem… My whole life I have felt different, different from my peers, even different from my family. In today’s society being different makes you brave. To overcome your fears you must be strong and have faith in your purpose.
“For the past 25 year I have been afraid, afraid to show whom I really was because of fear. Fear that judgment and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations. Fear that my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret. Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams.
“…Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay. Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently.
“I always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined… I will always be thankful for my career. I will remember Beijing, The MLS Cup, and most of all my teammates. I will never forget the friends I have made a long the way and the friends that supported me once they knew my secret.”
Rogers alerted the world to the news with a Twitter post (below). The revealing Tweet poignantly followed one from two hours earlier.
Rogers struggled to gain a toehold at Leeds over the last year, damaging his ability to do so with an injury straight away following his move from the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer. He was loaned out to Stevenage in England’s third tier but failed to last. He seemed to be tumbling out of the game when Leeds announced earlier this month that his contract would be terminated by mutual consent.
Rogers has been without a team over the last month; Columbus recently traded his MLS rights to Chicago, although he never indicated interest in returning to Major League Soccer.
This does, perhaps, shed some light on why such a talented figure was having such professional difficulty, having lost traction on his playing career.
I happened to be standing next to an MLS general manager when we heard the news. He said he perfectly: “You hope he can find some peace with it all.”
(The screen grab below does not include a “live” link; you can find that link to his blog post above)