Robbie Rogers, the professional soccer player who came out publicly last month, talked for the first time, to both the New York Times an The Guardian, about his decisions to come out publicly and leave the sport he loves.
Some of the highlights:
About the homophobic culture of European sports:
If he ever does return to soccer, Rogers said, it would almost surely be in M.L.S. While many European countries are more progressive in terms of gay-rights legislation, Rogers says the sports culture in Europe may lag behind that of the United States, especially in soccer.
On the power of casual homophobia:
Rogers noted an odd dichotomy; a number of his teammates in England reached out to him with supportive texts or e-mails after he came out publicly, but many of those same teammates participated in locker room banter that "could really be pretty awful," he said.
"I'm not going to name names - it's just that pack mentality," Rogers said. "I remember hearing some of them talk about the possibility of gay players and saying things like, ‘If gay footballers can shower with us, I want to shower with girls.' And I'm just thinking, ‘Dude, you have no idea what you're talking about.'"
On the "impossibility" of being openly gay in soccer:
In England, Rogers became acutely aware of the impossibility of being a publicly-out gay footballer. He was an established international and his most recent caps had been won under Jürgen Klinsmann - whose first game in charge ended in a draw, against Mexico, after an equaliser from Rogers.
But he understood the bitter truth: "In football it's obviously impossible to come out - because no-one has done it. No one. It's crazy and sad. I thought: 'Why don't I step away and deal with this and my family and be happy?' Imagine going to training every day and being in that spotlight? It's been a bit of a circus anyway - but that would have been crazy. And you wouldn't have much control because clubs are pushing you in different directions.
Could he have come out while playing for Columbus in the US? "No. Not at any club - anywhere."
On possibly being the first big pro sport athlete in the U.S.:
"Sure," Rogers says. "I've thought about that. I might be strong enough but I don't know if that's really what I want. I'd just want to be a footballer. I wouldn't want to deal with the circus. Are people coming to see you because you're gay? Would I want to do interviews every day, where people are asking: 'So you're taking showers with guys - how's that?'
"If you're playing well it will be reported as: 'The gay footballer is playing well.' And if you have a bad game it'll be: 'Aw, that gay dude ... he's struggling because he's gay.' Fuck it. I don't want to mess with that."
On his future:
The future, for Rogers, appears intriguingly open-ended. He flies to New York this weekend and will meet people at Ralph Lauren so they can decide whether he is suited to their new campaign. He has also won himself a place at the London School of Fashion and could begin a three-year course in September. But he might just have enough talent, contacts and nous to concentrate on Halsey - the menswear brand he co-owns in LA. And then, of course, there is football.
"Most days I wake up and I go to my computer and look at my emails and then go onto the football sites. Football will always be part of me. I don't know if I'm done playing yet. I might ask [the coach] Bruce Arena if I can train with LA Galaxy - we'll see. I miss it and think about it a lot. But I'm so happy now I don't want to mess with that. Football was my life and maybe I'll need to go back ... or maybe I'll just be a fan. But it's an industry where there are lots of problems - from sketchy agents to homophobic culture."
After reading all of his quotes, I came to a pretty clear conclusion: Rogers simply isn't ready to be the first out gay male athlete in the big U.S. pro leagues. He still perceives way too much homophobia, and he's still clearly struggling with his homosexuality himself.
While many clamor for him to return to Major League Soccer, he's not ready. And he's not particularly interested. The best thing for him is to follow his interests and keep soccer at a distance until he's both ready and interested again.