LOS ANGELES — Soccer star Robbie Rogers is returning to Major League Soccer after inking a deal to return to his native Southern California and play for the LA Galaxy.
But Rogers won't just be returning as a talented winger, he'll be the first openly gay player in the MLS.
Rogers retired in February after spending two seasons playing in the United Kingdom. The 26-year-old announced he was gay in a blog post on the same day he told fans he was leaving soccer altogether.
"Life is only complete when your loved ones know you. When they know your true feelings, when they know who and how you love," he wrote.
"Life is simple when your secret is gone. Gone is the pain that lurks in the stomach at work, the pain from avoiding questions, and at last the pain from hiding such a deep secret."
Rogers told the Associated Press that he decided he wasn't truly ready to give up soccer and is embracing his new role as the league's first openly gay player.
"I don't know what I was so afraid of," Rogers said Friday. "It's been such a positive experience for me. The one thing I've learned from all of this is being gay is not that big of a deal to people."
As an international player in the middle of his career, Rogers is a big name to add to the very small list of openly gay athletes.
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Rogers said he hopes his decision to come out, and be an advocate for tolerance and acceptance, while still an active player will lead more gay athletes to come out.
"About a month ago I would've thought: 'I don't want to be a spokesman for gay footballers.' I have so many different things I'm interested in," Rogers told the Guardian in an in-depth interview.
"But after thousands of emails, I'm thinking, OK, how can I help others? How can I make some positive change? How am I going to reach young Robbie and tell him to be himself? He might not fit the gay or the football stereotype. That's one thing I definitely want to do – break some barriers and kill some stereotypes."