During the LA Galaxy’s visit to the White House along with the LA Kings, President Obama was his usual self. He cracked jokes and honored both the Galaxy and the Kings for their respective accomplishments, while even commenting about Landon Donovan’s historic soccer career. Towards the end of the celebration, he took time to recognize Robbie Rogers as one of sport’s biggest trail blazers for gay athletes.
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Since coming out as gay in 2013 and retiring from soccer for a short time, he returned to his hometown LA Galaxy and became a key part of the MLS Champions in 2014. He has chronicled his life story and coming out in a book titled Coming Out To Play.
In front of an emotional Rogers, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, and the rest of his teammates, President Obama talked about his legacy and how he’s inspired others.
“I want to recognize what Robbie Rogers of the Galaxy has done for a lot of people by blazing a trail as one of professional sports’ first openly gay players,” President Obama said. “My guess is that, as an athlete, Robbie wants to win first and foremost — that’s what competition is all about. But, Robbie, you’ve also inspired a whole lot of folks here and around the world, and we are very proud of you.”
After the ceremony, Rogers reflected to the President’s comments on the North Lawn.
“I was really surprised actually,” Rogers said. “[We’re] from all walks of life, but to be here because we won a championship is special and it’s special to be recognized by the President. Just for him to mention where I’ve come from – it’s special to me.”
Rogers is not the only openly gay professional athlete. Michael Sam and Jason Collins seemed to make the news more for their coming out, but both talked to Rogers along their journey. At the same time, there’s a long way to go for LGBT athletes within sports and society and Rogers recognizes that.
“There’s a long way to go for the LGBT community to go in sports,” said a pensive Rogers. “We’re slowly getting there but it’s changing – slowly, it’s changing. There are guys like [former Missouri lineman] Michael Sam and [former Washington Wizards player] Jason Collins and a few female athletes. I’m happy to be a small part of it.”
Sexuality and athletic ability are not related to each other. Michael Same, Jason Collins, Robbie Rogers, and those LGBT USWNT players have shown that throughout the years. Rogers’ play and now his book will continue to inspire those who follow his story. The Galaxy will continue to be contenders in 2015 and within the national spotlight, and Rogers play will be part of those watching.
Society needs to continue to learn to be tolerant of others even if they do not agree. At the same time, LGBT athletes like Rogers will hopefully be able to blaze the trail more as they help bring more to a changing sports scene. The LGBT community deserves an equal chance in sports because sexuality does not dictate their skill set.