The Significance of Soccer's Robbie Rogers Coming Out of Retirement

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Soccer player Robbie Rogers will announce he's coming out of retirement on Saturday. This may seem insignificant, except Roger isn't old, or past his prime, or unworthy of a contract. The 26-year-old former U.S. national team member retired in February after announcing that he's gay. It wasn't until late Friday night that USA Today reported Rogers' second coming out. This time, he's coming out of his self imposed retirement that started in February. Rogers wrote a blog post disclosing his sexuality to the world and, also, his retirement. On Saturday afternoon, the MLS's Los Angeles Galaxy will announce they've acquired Rogers in a trade with the Chicago Fire

Rogers' decision to retire robbed major North American team sports of having its first out gay player when Rogers retired. He felt he needed to leave, both to deal with his sexuality on his own, and to avoid scrutiny from the press and fans, he says now. "I seriously felt like a coward," Rogers tells USA Today. But he's not only aiming for the pitch at the Home Depot Center where the Galaxy play -- he wants to return to the U.S. national team with the hope of playing in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. "I want to get back to the national team. I was so close to making the World Cup in 2010, I want to be there for the next one," he says

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The soccer world responded so positively when Rogers left the game, and the reaction over the last 24 hours or so have been similar. "A huge step for [Rogers] signing with [the LA Galaxy] good luck, and I'm really impressed and proud of you," U.S. national team star Abby Wambach tweeted.

NBA player Jason Collins will go down in the history books as the first out, active athlete in major North American team sports. But 34-year-old Collins is a journeyman center and, more importantly, a free agent. He has just greater than a 50-50 chance of being signed by next season. There is a very real chance he won't return to the NBA. And whether or not the MLS counts among the "major" team sports in North America -- the generally considered big four: the MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL -- is irrelevant. Rogers' coming out of retirement means there will a gay athlete playing at one of his sports' highest levels within the calendar year. He will be on the pitch competing with other players, surely facing scrutiny from the fans and media, but doing it with pride. That's more than the NBA, NHL, MLB, and certainly the NFL, can say. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.