Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay sportsman to play in a major US professional team league when he made his debut for Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy in a 4-0 win over Seattle.
Los Angeles were already leading the Sounders 4-0 when the 26-year-old Rogers entered the contest in the 77th minute Sunday, to an ovation from the crowd at the Galaxy’s Home Depot Center ground.
Ireland’s Robbie Keane scored a first-half hat-trick, after feeding Sean Franklin for the opening goal, as the Galaxy dominated the first half.
The only real drama in the second half was over whether or not Rogers would play.
He hadn’t played a competitive match in months, and Galaxy coach Bruce Arena had said he would bring him in slowly.
“The most important thing is today we got three points,” said Rogers, who came in for Juninho.
“It’s a huge game for us. It’s a Western Conference game, and the guys played amazing.
“Robbie was clinical in front of goal and it was a pleasure to watch. They made it easy for me.”
Rogers revealed his sexual orientation in February in a blog posting in which he also announced his retirement from football.
He had played briefly for Leeds United in England this season, but left the club after a loan deal to English League One side Stevenage expired in January.
Rogers said in March that he didn’t believe he could pursue a football career as an openly gay player, but in recent weeks he had returned to training with the Galaxy and found his fears receding and his passion for the game returning.
His debut came a day after the Galaxy confirmed they had signed him, trading Mike Magee to the Chicago Fire to acquire Rogers’ MLS rights.
Rogers said Saturday that the Galaxy’s willingness to sign him was another indication that the sports world was becoming more receptive to the idea of gay sportsmen, which could encourage more to come out.
Since Rogers’s decision to come out, basketball center Jason Collins has also told the world that he is gay.
Collins, who has played for six NBA teams over the past 12 seasons, hasn’t played since his announcement but will be hoping to land with a team when free agents can be signed in July.
“People have seen how accepting everyone has been of Jason’s and my story,” Rogers said. “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.”
[Image via Agence France-Presse]