It’s difficult to figure which part of Robbie Rogers’ announcement on his blog Friday was more newsworthy.
That the 25-year-old midfielder came out as gay, writing on therobbierogers.com that he needed to be honest with himself?
“I always thought I could hide this secret,” Rogers wrote. “Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined … I will always be thankful for my career. I will remember Beijing, The MLS Cup, and most of all my teammates. I will never forget the friends I have made along the way and the friends that supported me once they knew my secret.”
Or that he announced he is leaving soccer?
“Now is my time to step away. It’s time to discover myself away from football. It’s 1 a.m. in London as I write this and I could not be happier with my decision. Life is so full of amazing things. I realized I could only truly enjoy my life once I was honest. Honesty is a (bummer) but makes life so simple and clear. My secret is gone, I am a free man, I can move on and live my life as my creator intended.”
To Chicago Fire fans the answer might be the latter. The Fire acquired Rogers’ MLS rights last month in the trade that also brought Dilly Duka from Columbus.
Fire coach Frank Klopas has said since the trade he has tried reaching out to Rogers — out of contract since severing ties with England’s Leeds United by mutual agreement — without success.
“Yesterday I thought he was a very good player, and I still think that today,” Klopas said in a team statement Friday. “Should Robbie want to return to the game, we would still be open to him being part of the Fire.”
It’s important to note that nowhere in his blog did Rogers use any form of the word “retire,” and Twitter was full of American soccer players offering support and assuring Rogers that his announcement alone was no reason to retire.
Typical of the outpouring of support was U.S. national team captain Carlos Bocanegra, a former Fire defender now playing in Spain, who wrote, “@robbierogers proud of u buddy. Hope u only retire of ur over soccer and want to pursue other interests.”
Gay-rights stories seem to be all over the news these days. Just Thursday the Illinois state senate voted to give gays and lesbians the right to marry, sending the bill to the state House of Representatives.
Still, if Rogers comes back to MLS he would be the only openly gay player in the league. Despite the support Friday’s announcement prompted, it won’t be easy for Rogers to be an openly gay pro athlete, should he want to resume his career. Whether he opts to play in MLS, a league that last season punished two players for using gay slurs on the field, or stay in Europe.
Whether the reason for Rogers stepping away was personal or out of fear he wouldn’t be accepted by players or fans, this much is certain: The Fire and the U.S. national team always could use a player with Rogers’ skills.
ŸFollow Orrin on Twitter @orrin_schwarzCopyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.