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Gay soccer player Robbie Rogers joins LA Galaxy
He’s certainly not alone in this movement. NBA veteran Jason Collins came out late last month, and Rogers spoke with Collins on the day of the center’s announcement.
U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who plays for Lyon in France, came out last year before the London Olympics. She’s expected to join the Seattle team of the new National Women’s Soccer League in mid-June.
Brittney Griner, the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft by the Phoenix Mercury, and Seimone Augustus of the Minnesota Lynx are among that league’s openly gay players. Sheryl Swoopes, a retired WNBA All-Star and current college coach, came out in 2005 during her playing days.
But any day now, Rogers is likely to become the first openly gay male athlete to play in North America’s biggest professional leagues, a fact that’s still a bit surprising to both Rogers and Collins.
“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.”
While MLS has a fraction of the NBA’s popularity, Rogers has the potential to be more influential than Collins or featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz, who has won two fights since coming out last year. Collins is a journeyman basketball player without a contract for next season, while Rogers is an accomplished international soccer player in his prime.
Rogers won an NCAA title at Maryland in 2005 and an MLS title with Columbus in 2008 while making the all-league first team. He has played sparingly over the past two years for English clubs Leeds and Stevenage after leaving the Crew in December 2011.
But his workouts at the Galaxy’s training complex in Carson, Calif., were enticing enough, even if Rogers acknowledged he’s “definitely a bit rusty right now.”
The Galaxy will work on getting Rogers back into top form, and they’ll also support him in his conspicuous new role.
“It’s going to take him a little time,” said Arena, also the Galaxy’s general manager. “He’s got to adjust to the Galaxy. He’s got to get himself in better form with the ball and his fitness. That takes time for any player, as we’ve witnessed with Landon over the last six to eight weeks. It’s going to take some time. We hope Robbie can turn the corner quickly.”
Rogers is joining his league’s highest-profile team, with Donovan and Irish captain Robbie Keane leading a roster expected to contend for a third straight championship. After six years as David Beckham’s home before the English midfielder’s departure last December, the Galaxy know all about the spotlight that will be cast on Rogers.
“There’s obviously going to be attention, and I think that we are no stranger to that,” Galaxy President Chris Klein told the AP. “I think the biggest piece of this is the maturity of Robbie, and we’re quite confident in that. We’re there to stand behind him as an organization. He has shown to be a guy that has a tremendous amount of character and integrity, and I think he’s going to fit our organization really well.”
The deal is a risk for the Galaxy, who traded a beloved fan favorite for Rogers. Magee, a Chicago native, has won two titles and scored eight postseason goals in four years with the Galaxy, and he leads the club with six goals this season.
But Los Angeles is enticed by the potential of Rogers, who has played 18 times for the U.S. national team, scoring two goals. He dreams of playing for the American team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but knows it won’t happen unless he excels with the Galaxy.
Rogers immediately felt comfortable training with the Galaxy and resuming his friendship with Donovan, meeting the U.S. national team star for coffee. He’s also confident his attacking game on the wing can help the Galaxy, who haven’t replaced Beckham’s bending passes from the flank this season.
By Donald Lambro
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