Monday Postgame: Why LA Galaxy's Robbie Rogers is the right trailblazer
There was an announcement, by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, that Manchester City and the New York Yankees had acquired the league's 20th franchise, New York City FC, to be owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees.
Elsewhere, the Portland Timbers extended their unbeaten run to 11 games while FC Dallas solidified their spot atop the Western Conference standings with their eighth win of the season.
But the top story of the week, the one that will rightly produce the most headlines, involved a player who saw only 13 minutes of action and got just a few touches.
When Robbie Rogers, whose rights were acquired by the LA Galaxy on Saturday in exchange for attacker Mike Magee, took the field in the 77th minute of LA’s 4-0 thrashing of Seattle on Sunday night, he became the first openly gay male athlete ever to compete in one of North America's five major leagues.
At Saturday’s press conference announcing his return to soccer, Rogers showed why he’s so well qualified to shoulder this pioneering role.
In case you missed it, here are the top five quotes from that session:
5. “I’m not expecting to be treated any different than any other players [by fans]. I’m not naïve, so I know if I do hear something, just not to react. Regarding the other players, I have a lot of great friends that play in this league, so no matter what city I go to, I’ll know someone on the team. And the players I don’t know, they’re not going to like me [only] because I’m going to be competing against them--and hopefully, running past them and scoring goals. So I don’t expect to be treated any differently.”
The more this is about soccer, the better. The sooner we reach the day when a player’s sexuality is a non-issue.
4. “There’s something unique about MLS. The locker rooms in MLS are a little bit different from what I’ve experienced in Europe…MLS definitely is ready [for an openly gay athlete], and I think the United States is ready for more athletes to come out in other sports.”
Major League Soccer has shown a progressive attitude regarding this issue, swiftly punishing players for anti-gay slurs, and regularly promoting equality and respect through initiatives such as this season’s Don’t Cross the Line campaign. As for the second part, the NBA’s Jason Collins, and untold others in the NFL, MLB and NHL, would certainly agree.
3. “It was very much about me coming back and feeling like I was just one of the guys, just a regular soccer player.”
Rogers said this in reference to the mood at Galaxy training sessions and throughout the team, suggesting that not only is MLS well suited to chart this territory, but that the club is also the best fit for Rogers as he takes on an unprecedented responsibility.
2. “Those kids at that event very much showed me that, ‘Hey, you’re being a little soft [by staying in retirement]. … You’ve got to man up a little bit.’”
After speaking to a group of high-school LGBT-group members in Portland, Ore., Rogers came away impressed by their courage, spurring a sense of obligation to embrace the historic opportunity in front of him and become a role model for closeted youngsters and athletes everywhere. I assume his use of macho terminology to describe his decision is not accidental, either.
1. “I’m very motivated to prove myself. I want to prove to everyone in this room, and to everyone in this world, that I’m a great footballer.”
Rogers said this in response to a question about the pressure of replacing clutch LA attacker Mike Magee. He said it with a little bit of an edge, too — a little bit of a chip on his shoulder — and that should encourage Galaxy fans, who are hoping they’ll eventually get the Rogers who was a 2008 Best XI selection and who’s earned 18 caps for the US. If they do, the trade of Magee will have worked out in their favor. In more ways than one.