Last week a well respected 25-year-old American soccer player came out of the closet, got lots of press attention, and promptly retired from the sport.
Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly brave for Robbie Rogers to come out of the closet… but then he quit. So we are still looking at a total lack of gay men — out gay men — in professional sports.
Now like many people in North America, outside of David Beckham’s underwear ads, I don’t follow soccer much, but this guy is known and liked and respected. So this is big news in professional athlete world. And he did it gracefully, in an eloquent blog post:
“Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could ever have imagined….. I realized I could only truly enjoy my life once I was honest. . . . My secret is gone, I am a free man, I can move on and live my life as my creator intended.”
Rogers then said he was going to “step away” from the game… but would the game welcome him back now?
Many athletes tweeted words of support, and I believe they were being truthful, and yet the easy way to be inclusive is to be inclusive in theory. Some legendary athletes have come out over time — Martina Navratilova, Gareth Thomas, Billy Bean – as well as some younger generation athletes like skater Johnny Weir — but no current major professional team players are out.
The pro leagues, such as the soccer association when Rogers came out, are saying that out athletes will be welcomed, so why hasn’t someone come out? No matter what percentage of the population is gay, with the thousands of professional jocks in baseball, football, basketball, soccer, hockey, ping pong, bowling, there have to be hundreds of gay men, so why hasn’t someone come out?
Oh yeah, Scott Norton, a professional bowler, came out last year and kissed his husband at a tournament. Bowling leads the way… Come on, pro sports.. catch up!