Openly gay professional athletes Jason Collins and Robbie Rogers sat down for a great conversation with Out magazine, talking about coming out and being out in professional sports.
The two trailblazers covered a bunch of issues, but one comment by Rogers stuck in my mind as particularly resonant:
“I become a little sad when I think that when I retire, there really won’t be any of us,” Rogers said. To be clear, Rogers said he was talking about male athletes. There are dozens of professional LGBT athletes out in women’s sports, particularly soccer, basketball and hockey.
“Then who will be in the locker room, who will be in the sports arena changing the culture? The way to change things for more athletes to come out is for more athletes to come out. Which is sad, but that’s the answer.”
Rogers is still an active Major League Soccer player with the L.A. Galaxy, though he hasn’t played in about a year. As he’s tried to recover from an injury, build his fashion brand and be a family man, many have speculated that his retirement is coming. That’s why he talked about his possibly impending retirement.
Rogers’ comments reflect what we at Outsports have said for years, that the culture of sports has already changed and it will take now athletes coming out to help everyone see that.
Of course, every effort helps. Public-awareness campaigns, non-LGBT people making inclusive statements, policies that protect LGBT athletes — All of it helps.
Every time I talk with Collins about his experience, it’s inspiring to hear him express the support he received from his teammates in the NBA as well.
Yet the only way to complete the transformation of sports is for athletes to come out.
Collins endorsed Rogers’ comment saying he hopes LGBT professional athletes understand they can have an impact far beyond the people they know.
Collins ended the Out magazine video with a lovely gesture:
“Cheers to the next athlete coming out.”