Judging from the lovely messages Robbie Rogers has received, his friends and teammates care for him and would surely welcome him back.
Rogers needs to work out the complications from his coming out the other day, and most of us have no idea what that involves.
He is part of the new generation that has been around gay issues from the start – friends who had gay parents, friends who came out, people who had the comfort to live their lives more in the open, plus all the references in pop culture that were not there in past generations.
It’s easier now, even if incrementally. The older generation still gets a little nervous when the subject comes up; the intolerant religious flank is watching a new generation pay no attention.
Rogers has already scored and created important goals for the national team through his ability and instincts. He is only 25. When the time comes around again, it would be wonderful if he played the sport at which he excels.
He also could contribute something vital: he could be the first openly gay male in one of America’s major leagues. Rogers could come home, to the right team in Major League Soccer, which has enlightened leadership that enforces penalties on homophobic slurs. That league will not permit ugly stuff from the crowd like the chants Rogers could expect if he stayed in England. (Ask Tim Howard about the lyrics he hears making fun of his very mild case of Tourette’s syndrome.)
My guess is that the time is right to openly welcome a gay player in an American league, as has already happened on the women’s national soccer team. Megan Rapinoe, one of the best and most popular players, came out a year ago. For that matter, her coach at the time, Pia Sundhage, one of the more mature and interesting leaders, is gay. The world did not end.
The pressure would be considerable in a male league, from media scrutiny, from fans, probably from some conservative fans and sponsors and the inevitable religious groups. Blazing a trail as a gay player would be challenging, but then again so was sitting at lunch counters for blacks in the 1960’s and so was playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers for Jackie Robinson in 1947. It’s a different time.
Those sweet messages to Rogers from his pals tells me they already get it, and will be there if he decides to play again. I hope he does.
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