Robbie Rogers was at the apex of a professional soccer career when he came out last February as a gay man and simultaneously retired from the sport he loved. Now, this self-described devout Catholic is returning to the pitch, and may make LGBT sports history here in America.
Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy signed Rogers over the weekend, and an article in The Nation reports on the significance:
“Robbie Rogers has officially un-retired and will become the first openly gay male North American athlete to take the field in one of the ‘big five’ sports…Rogers’s return is a testament to how much has changed since NBA player Jason Collins came out last month. Rogers saw how much support Collins received and was moved from his previous pessimism that he would never be accepted…
“But just as Collins’s announcement made it easier for Robbie Rogers, this latest news will make it easier for the next person to be honest and public about who they are…It will continue to develop until, in a not-to-distant future, the issue of having a gay teammate simply won’t be an issue at all.”
As with Jason Collins, who noted the central and affirming role Christian faith played in his life, Rogers publicly speaks about his Catholic identity as affirming this decision to ‘come out:’
“Another sign of the times is that Rogers was raised in a very religious home and still considers himself a devout Catholic. As he said, ‘Being Catholic—and people may disagree—but we are called to love everyone. Be honest. Be true in your relationship with God. I’ve always lived that way.'”
The theme of honesty, especially in a religious sense with regards to God, was evident from the start of Rogers’ coming out, as he wrote in a blog post last February:
“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…
“Life is so full of amazing things. I realized I could only truly enjoy my life once I was honest. My secret is gone, I am a free man, I can move on and live my life as my creator intended.”
The advancements in sports for LGBT people should not be understated, but from my perspective both Robbie Rogers and Jason Collins reveal a far great development in the struggle for equality. In coming out, these athletes acknowledged the important role faith plays in their lives — and the harmony they find between faith and sexuality. Although Catholic bishops and other religious leaders often are the loudest voices against LGBT rights, Rogers’ story reveals just how deeply and broadly the pro-equality gospel message has spread.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry