We're here for ya, kid. - George Frey
On Friday, former Columbus Crew player Robbie Rogers came out as gay, while announcing a break from soccer. We here at Waking the Red offer this heartfelt open letter to him, penned by resident westerner John Leung.
My name is John Leung, and I am a writer with Waking the Red, SBNation's blog for Toronto FC. You haven't met me, but I've seen you work when you were with Columbus, and as a TFC supporter I can't help but hate your guts. But as a fellow gay soccer lover, I've gained a whole new level of respect for you as a person.
First off, congratulations for coming out: it is the hardest step in the process, and you've done it! I know because I'm still going through that process myself. I'm sure you've had your fair share of sleepless nights and a lot of stressful days to gather the courage just to even type the words you did. And deep down in my hardened TFC supporting heart, I can't help but be proud of you for doing it.
Still, it's such a shame that you are stepping away from the game. You're a talented guy, and being selected for the US national team and MLS's Best XI is a pretty big testament to the fact. But if you were to come back, I'm sure you won't have a problem fitting in. And regardless of whatever reason you stepping away for, you've been through a lot lately and you deserve a little time to reflect. Granted, not everyone can have the luxury of time and money for a journey of self-discovery, but since you do, take the time and explore the world: see the sights, enjoy the tastes, sleep in, and maybe even fall in love with the boy of your dreams! (The last one isn't guaranteed, but it's awesome.)
If you choose to come back to the game, don't fret about the haters in the stands and the opposite side. Times have changed from the days of Justin Fashanu, and judging from how your friends in MLS and the US national team have reacted on Twitter alone, you'll be welcomed back with open arms in any locker room (well, at least here in North America anyway). And sure, you'll probably run into the haters in the stands or on the field, but by and large most fans are supportive too, even at BMO Field in Toronto.
We may be mandated by the powers of the Trillium Cup to hate you, but in fact you will find many TFC supporters to be very supportive. It's probably the Canadian values talking, but if you do come back I'm sure the supporters at BMO will at least grant you the courtesy of not slagging you for who you are. If some do, they are probably just paper dragons who will be shouted down or kicked out. I can't speak for other teams' supporters, but if Chicago's Section 8's rainbow tifo is any indication, they're cool with it too. Where you think you may not have a friend (like Toronto and Chicago), you'll probably find thousands secretly cheering you on. It's a strange dichotomy, but it's possible.
On the other hand, don't get pressured or rushed into making a decision, or to fit into a round hole when you're a square peg. People are already putting you on a pedestal, calling you soccer's version of a gay Jackie Robinson or something like that (without even knowing if you're coming back or not. How rude!), and soon there will be calls for you to be a role model and speak up for a myriad of causes. But knowing what you've gone through so far, well...as much as it pains some to realize, you don't need to be afraid of saying no. You owe nobody anything, and if you don't want to be on that pedestal, you have the power to step off.
But if you choose to avoid the limelight and forgo taking up the sword of justice, at least tell your story to someone. Clear the air, and set the dialogue around what is the truth. Don't stay silent, because if Perez Hilton has taught us anything, it's that the rumour mill is vicious; pre-empting it will save you a lot of grief later on.
But most of all, if you have a question, reach out to someone! The path you have chosen is a well-tread one, albeit with many branches that lead to many different directions. If you are ever lost, many out there (including the team here at WTR) are here for you. Don't hesitate to write, email, or send smoke signals, because someone is bound to answer.
So from one gay soccer-loving dude to another, congratulations again on coming out. Welcome to freedom, Robbie. Just make sure you pack some shades, because whatever you choose to do, your future is bright.
Sincerely, and with love,