Robbie Rogers of the Los Angeles Galaxy made history Sunday night when he stepped on the field at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., becoming the first openly gay male athlete to play a game in one of the five major North American team sports.
Rogers, 26, entered the game at the 77th minute, with the Galaxy leading the Seattle Sounders, 4-0. Wearing No. 14, he smiled as his name was called and some in the near-sellout crowd of 24,000 stood and applauded; a small group of fans started a "Rogers" chant. He played the final 13 minutes and as the game ended; the first player to greet him was teammate Landon Donovan. Rogers stayed after to greet fans and sign autographs.
His entrance was eerily similar to what he told ESPN Alexi Lalas pregame he hoped would happen.
"I'm hoping that I can come on and it's 4-0 and I can just enjoy myself," Rogers said. He is not yet in top-flight pro soccer shape, so bringing him in before the home fans with the game comfortably in hand was the perfect situation. The Galaxy's next home game is not until June 19.
After the game, he was asked if his head was spinning after the whirlwind of the past 48 hours since being signed. "Yeah, it's been spinning for the past two months," he said. Rogers came out publicly Feb. 15 and initially stepped away from the game before reconsidering and planning his comeback.
Rogers arrived at the stadium dressed in a light blue sports jacket with an open-collar white dress shirt. He told Lalas that he was nervous two hours before heading to the stadium as the realization hit him that he was about to play. He said he had his sister talk to him as he drove to the stadium to calm himself down.
"I definitely think it's helped me come back to L.A. It's definitely helped me to play in front of my family, play in front of my friends," he said.
Prior to the game on the field, Rogers was all smiles as he was warmly greeted by members of the Sounders. Among those embracing him was Brad Evans, Rogers' best friend when the two played together for the Columbus Crew.
A reporter at the game told me that the atmosphere at the stadium was nothing out of the ordinary, despite Rogers' presence. Fans he spoke with were blase about Rogers being gay. One even said he might boo Rogers, not because he was gay but because he was replacing the popular player Mike Magee, who was traded to the Chicago Fire for Rogers. Being booed for a soccer reason, not a social one, is a sign that Rogers will fit in just fine.