TUKWILA, Wash. — Some day, an openly gay male athlete will play for a professional team. And Marc Burch, for one, believes Major League Soccer will be the trailblazer.
“I think we’ll be the first league to definitely accept it,” Burch told reporters at Sounders training on Tuesday. “I think it will come and go a lot easier than people think. It’s going to happen, and I think this is a perfect league for it.”
Considering the last time Burch was in the news on this topic, he might seem like the least likely person to deliver the message he did to the Seattle media. Burch was handed a three-game suspension by MLS last fall for using a gay slur during a nationally televised playoff game, and will serve the third game of that suspension during the team's season opener on Saturday against Montreal (10:30 pm ET, MLS Live).
But here's the reality: Burch is as good a messenger as anyone on this subject. The Sounders left back has a gay sister and is a former college teammate of Robbie Rogers, the former Columbus Crew midfielder who made headlines a couple weeks ago when he came out.
Burch was among Rogers’ more visible supporters, sending out a congratulatory tweet and appearing in a video produced by the Sounders.
“I hope people didn’t think that that was just because of what happened last year,” said Burch, speaking for the first time about his 2012 suspension. “I went to school with Robbie, and I love Robbie to death.
“I’m proud that he has been able to get this off his chest," Burch added. "Hopefully he can come back and play soccer now. That’s what we all want him to do.”
In order to create an environment where people like Rogers feel safe, Burch acknowledged that the kind of language he used has to be dealt with harshly.
“I knew when the suspension was coming down that it needed to be harsh, because it’s a harsh thing that I did,” Burch said. “I think [MLS Commissioner] Don Garber made the right decision.”