Robbie Rogers has been in the Olympics, having proudly represented his country during the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. And Rogers is gay, having famously come out in February, the first male athlete in U.S. professional team sports to do so.
So when he says the United States should absolutely not boycott the winter Olympics in protest of Russia’s anti-gay laws, it’s coming from a perspective of personal history and knowledge.
In a column he wrote for USA Today, the LA Galaxy winger said he has been fielding numerous questions on how the United States should react to Russia’s new anti-gay laws and the growing concern that foreign athletes and fans at next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi could face prosecution.
Rogers told the emotional story of walking into the stadium in Beijing as a representative of his homeland, one of the truly amazing and unforgettable life snapshots. He wouldn’t want the same opportunity denied any U.S. athlete.
Now five years later, I couldn’t imagine supporting a boycott of the Sochi Olympics that would deny any fellow athletes the opportunity to do what I did then: to compete against the world’s best, to fulfill the dream of a lifetime, to set an example for the world, to make our friends, families, and country proud of our accomplishments. I also couldn’t imagine telling an athlete not to boycott if that’s what he or she thinks is best.
But here’s what I would do if I could. I’d go. I’d make no secret of the fact I’m gay and I’d take every opportunity to let people know the truth about my life, which I’ve done since I came out this past February. And if I were a straight athlete, I’d go and take every opportunity to let people know that I support the rights of all people to live free from the threat of discrimination. After all, isn’t freedom an Olympic ideal?
Rogers also said he would encourage IOC to allow athletes at Sochi to express their support for gay athletes be wearing the rainbow flag, simultaneously showing “solidarity for gay Russians who are now living under the threat of arrest by a repressive regime.”