In a moving post entitled "The Next Chapter..." on his personal blog, 25-year-old former MLS and U.S. national team midfielder Robbie Rogers came out as gay and announced he is stepping away from the game. Rogers, who most recently played for English League One club Stevenage on loan from Championship side Leeds, wrote:
Things are never what they seem... My whole life I have felt different, different from my peers, even different from my family. In today's society, being different makes you brave. To overcome your fears you must be strong and have faith in your purpose.
For the past 25 years, I have been afraid, afraid to show whom I really was because of fear. Fear that judgement and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations. Fear that my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret. Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams. [...]
Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay. Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently.
Rogers tweeted a link to the blog post out to his nearly 78,000 followers on Friday with the message "Just getting some sh*t off my chest." This came two hours after he tweeted "Beautiful out right now.. Too bad I'm feeling blue ;("
He concluded the post -- which appears to be the only one on his blog -- by announcing he will take some time off from the game after being released by Leeds last month.
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 bitch 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.
Last week, the Chicago Fire acquired the rights to Rogers should he return to MLS. Rogers voiced his annoyance at "how the MLS works" on Twitter when it happened, but it seemed like a return was likely for him.
Rogers has 18 caps for the U.S. national team (his last coming in 2011) and played on the U-23 squad at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also co-owns a clothing line called Halsey and has done some modeling for it.
In 2011, former MLS player David Testo also came out. "It's like carrying around a secret, you know, and carrying around luggage and just never being allowed to be yourself," he told CBC.
UPDATE: The outpouring of support from Rogers' friends and former teammates has been genuinely wonderful to see. The messages from two of his closest friends on the U.S. team typify the response.
UPDATE II: The FA has offered their official support of Rogers.
Darren Bailey, The FAâ€™s Director of Football Governance and Regulation, said: â€œFollowing the announcement by Robbie Rogers on Friday, The FA is trying to make contact with him offering our support.
"Whether Robbie stays in the game or steps away for a break he has our full backing."