Robbie Rogers scored the first goal of the game May 11, but he scored even bigger with the Philadelphia Falcons. Rogers, who plays with the L.A. Galaxy, came out publicly in 2013 with the intent to retire from soccer rather than face the expected onslaught of homophobia and bigotry sometimes associated with professional sports. But fortunately for the soccer world, he was convinced to continue playing and now, three years later, he’s playing first string and he and partner Greg Berlanti have welcomed a baby boy into their family.
PGN: How happy are you for staying with soccer compared to when you first made the step to come out?
RR: I am extremely happy. The first year was really tough. I think I thought of myself as an outsider and it really affected the way I was playing and being able to enjoy the game. Now I just feel like another guy on the team. My teammates, we are all different and I just feel like I bring a different dimension to the club.
PGN: Do you feel you play better with your “cloak” removed?
RR: I don’t feel like I am playing better but I am definitely enjoying myself more and enjoying all the little things like the relationships with my teammates, traveling with the guys and just being in the stadium with everyone.
PGN: It sounds like your teammates are pretty good guys. Have you had any rough encounters with opposing teams being more or less homophobic?
RR: I have friends on every team and they have all be supportive. I have spoken with a few of my friends on different MLS teams and on different teams around the world. They have said that things are changing but that they still hear homophobic slurs.
PGN: Congratulations on the family! How does having a little one around the house change your routine?
RR: It has changed my routine a little, obviously, but we have had a lot of help. Caleb is the most amazing little guy. He makes us so happy and we can’t stand being away from him.
PGN: Do you find yourself torn sometimes between the passion for the game and the desire to be home with your family?
RR: No, not really. I always miss my family but when I am gone it’s only for a few days. Soccer isn’t forever so I try to enjoy it while I am still playing.
PGN: Any chance on meeting our local LGBT soccer team the Philadelphia Falcons while you’re in town?
RR: Hopefully I will at the stadium but I will be very focused on the game. The most important thing I would want to say to everyone on the Falcons is thank you for coming. Thank you for supporting me. Without your support I wouldn’t have gone back to soccer.
The second-annual Courage Game will take place May 29 at Penn Park on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.
The Courage Game has a mission to encourage and support gay youth and stop bullying. Twelve-year-old lacrosse player Braeden Lange was the inspiration for the game, which saw its incarnation last year as openly gay lacrosse players and many allies came together Memorial Day weekend in Philadelphia.
Aside from great competition, there will be concessions, entertainment and some surprise guests. NXT Sports, a Philadelphia-based youth sports education and event-management company, is organizing the event. Other key Courage Game partners include U.S. Lacrosse, Geno’s Steaks, House of Talent PA, Saxbys, Wegmans and the You Can Play Project.
Donations are accepted and money raised will go directly to support the mission of stopping bullying and promoting acceptance in youth sports.