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Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis

February 15, 2013
Mr. Rogers takes men's soccer into a new neighborhood

By Michael Lewis Editor

The twitterverse was abuzz on Friday afternoon that Robbie Rogers, the former Columbus Crew, Leeds United and Stevenage midfielder, had come out, saying he was gay and that he was stepping away from the sport.

That's right, the same Robbie Rogers, who has made 18 appearances and scored twice for the U.S. National Team.

On Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, that was very, very big news.

Unfortunately it shouldn't have been. As a society, we should be well past wondering about an athlete's sexual orientation, but we haven't gotten there yet, at least not yet.

In case you missed it, this is what Rogers communicated so well on his blog:

"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."

He also wrote: "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."

(You can read the entire blog at

But let's give Mr. Rogers a lot of credit because he showed a lot of courage and character by coming out. Not many male soccer players have come out because of that fear, although former Crew player David Testo was one who came out of the closet.

There are more female athletes who do; Megan Rapinoe, the superb U.S. women's international midfielder obviously comes to mind and from what I have seen and heard, she has been readily accepted by the fans and the media.

I could care less whether someone is straight, gay or whatever his or her sexual orientation is.

It's all about who he or she is as a person, character and personality.

On the soccer field -- or in any athletic endeavor, for that matter -- it only should matter if he or she can play the game.

I have several friends who are gay -- and even a number in the business -- and I love and respect many of them as good friends (I have to give my parents a lot of that credit for my beliefs and attitude because I was raised in a tolerant household).

In some respects, I envy the younger generations, especially teenagers on down. They are growing up in a culture that is more accepting and their attitudes are much more open.

The older generations, including mine, may not be as welcoming or understanding. Well, that's their big loss.

Like many writers, I am an amateur sociologist, although I will try to leave the serious end of these matters to the experts.

As a professional soccer writer, however, my main concern is how we get Robbie Rogers playing again for a club, so he can reach his potential and play for the U.S. National Team someday.

And perhaps someday -- it might take years or maybe decades -- when someone comes out, it won't make as big a news splash.

Then we could look back to today, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, as another watershed day in the evolution of the human race.

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