The Strength in Robbie Rogers’ Retirement


August 5, 2011; Commerce City, CO, USA; Columbus Crew midfielder/forward Robbie Rogers (18) in the first half against the Colorado Rapids at Dick

We as a nation are largely a tolerant people, or at least we like to think of ourselves that way. But we never truly get to test the scales of our ideals until a moment like today comes along. Robbie Rogers came online in what was afternoon in London and posted this tweet, it forced our society to step on the scale and weigh how far we have progressed:

It was a refreshing message of hope, of moving forward into a more honest future for himself. It was a hell of a lot more hopeful than his tweet three hours earlier, the last melancholy tones for his last hours of revealing less than his full self to the world before the denouement of his next post:

It took strength to do what Rogers did, even in today’s society. The immediate outpouring of support for Rogers, who announced his retirement at 25 years old at the same time he openly declared his homosexuality, was a genuine declaration of respect from assorted stars past and present from the soccer world. His former U.S. national teammates came out en masse with their support; here is but a sampling of their flood of tweets to Rogers:

Not only was it his own teammates, though; the support came from fans and former players, advocates and journalists, all of whom recognized the Rogers that they had come to appreciate and that the young man still has so much further that he can expand his life. Nobody cried for him to leave the sport — if anything, fans of the Chicago Fire (who hold Rogers’ MLS rights) and the U.S. men’s national team cried for him to stay.

It is important to know that Rogers said merely that he is “stepping away” from the sport. This was no formal retirement, and as the attacker moves on to discover his true self it certainly appears he will be welcomed readily back into the fold if he so chooses to return.

There are still many road bumps along the way, but sports offer the truest distillation of our emotions day-to-day as a society. Today we learned that a young man can be judged by the content of his character rather than the orientation of his sexuality. As we continued to strive for improvement in our levels of tolerance, let’s hope that Eddie Pope’s voice of support comes true. Rogers’ message can and should give hope for all members of our society — wherever their orientation lies — and set an example to think positively and honestly about our own futures.