Philly Sports Live

From the PSL Soccer Desk: Robbie Rogers

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Friday afternoon, former United States Men’s National Team, Columbus Crew and Leeds United wing Robbie Rogers revealed on his blog that he is gay.  This shouldn’t be important, but it is.  It shouldn’t be news, but it is.

For all that we may look at Robbie Rogers and see unfulfilled athletic potential, he rose to a level most of us could never dream of: an Olympian in 2008, an MLS Cup Champion, and a US International who scored the first goal of the post-Bradley era right here in Philadelphia, against Mexico.

Rogers expresses the pain, the shame and the struggle of living a lie, the fear that kept him from being himself, and the relief he feels now that it is out in the open.  To this there is little anyone can add except respect for the courage it must have taken for Robbie to open himself up to the world.

I was recently asked if it is possible to be an ethical sports fan. The nature of ethics, the nature of fandom, and the role of sports in our society are topics so vast and complex that I doubt my talents are up to expressing even a sliver of my thoughts.  One thing I am sure of is that to be an ethical fan means not bowing down before the status quo, the traditional logic and excuses when it comes to the acceptance of any individual on the field or in the stands, irrespective of race, creed or sexual orientation.  It is no more right for Robbie Rodgers to have felt pressured to pretend to be someone he was not than for Jozy Altidore to be subjected to monkey chants.  The fact that Robbie Rogers and other players like him feel compelled by the culture of sports to hide who they are is a black mark against that culture.

Sports, especially in America, should be a place where individuals are judged only on their character and skill. Anything else is irrelevant.  Sports can be the one true meritocracy, the vanguard of real and lasting change in society. That an athlete like Robbie Rogers, whose skill was undoubted, and whose courage and character are so readily on display in this admission, should leave the sport is a great loss, not just for soccer, but for all of us.

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