Out-Gay Soccer Player Robbie Rogers Appears on ’Nightline’

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday April 15, 2013

When Robbie Rogers came out as a gay man, it made headlines. The pro soccer player, who has played for American and British teams, would have been the only active openly gay U.S. pro team athlete -- if he hadn't simultaneously announced on his blog that he would "step away" from pro football (as soccer is known everywhere but here).

"I always thought I could hide this secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity," he wrote at the time. "Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined."

On Monday, April 15, Roberts will be interviewed on ABC's "Nightline." In a pre-released clip, Roberts said of his secret, "It's hard to describe the feeling, but you go to work thinking, 'I hope no one figures I'm gay,'" because, he added, if he did, he was afraid he wouldn't be able to play any longer.

"Guys on your team are your best friends," he said. "If you're not the same as them, you're an outcast."

'Sports is a bit behind in our society, That atmosphere is hard to change.'

Asked if he heard homophobic slurs in the locker room, he answered, "all the time. I heard gay slurs hanging out with friends in high school and everywhere, so that's what discourages you."

Criticizing the "macho mentality" of pro sports, he complained, "Sports is a bit behind in our society," adding, "That atmosphere is hard to change."

There are definite signs, however, that American pro sports leagues are trying to take steps toward more acceptance that will eventually lead to an active out-gay player.

Late last week, the National Hockey League announced that it was working with gay organizations to prepare the way toward acceptance among teammates and the league. Last month, the media was full of speculation that an active National Football League player would be coming out of the closet.

Although that has yet to materialize, the NFL has become an unexpected forum about marriage equality. Several players have been quite vocal about their pro gay-rights stance.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).