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May 26, 2013

Robbie Rogers eligible to play

Robbie Rogers is eligible to make his debut for the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday night after MLS said it had received his International Transfer Certificate.

The former U.S. national team winger will become the first active openly gay male athlete to compete in an American professional team sport when he makes his debut for the Galaxy.

The Galaxy hosted the Sounders on Sunday night (ESPN2). Rogers was not in the starting lineup but was was among seven players listed as substitutes.

The Galaxy announced Saturday they had reached a multiyear deal with Rogers after acquiring the right of first refusal for him from the Chicago Fire. LA traded fan favorite Mike Magee to the Fire in exchange for the rights to Rogers.

The Galaxy said Rogers will wear No. 14.

Speaking to USA Today Sports, which broke the news Friday, Rogers said he first began considering a return last month after talking to a group of about 500 children at the Nike Be True LGBT Youth Forum in Portland, Ore.

"I seriously felt like a coward," he told the newspaper. "These kids are standing up for themselves and changing the world, and I'm 25, I have a platform and a voice to be a role model. How much of a coward was I to not step up to the plate?"

Rogers told The Associated Press his fears about returning to soccer were eased by the support he received from family, fans and players, including Galaxy star Landon Donovan.

"I don't know what I was so afraid of," Rogers said. "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. ...

"People are just really growing and accepting and loving," he added. "Those other things are just not that important to them. I think as the younger get older and the generations come and go, I think times are just becoming more accepting."

Rogers wrote on his blog in February that he was retiring from soccer and that he is gay.

One month before coming out, Rogers had left Leeds United by mutual consent after spending more than a year in England, later saying he had been afraid of revealing his sexual orientation.

Rogers, who received support from several of his former U.S. teammates after announcing he is gay, had joined the Galaxy for training earlier this month.

"To be honest, I had no plans of going back to football at all and definitely not this soon," Rogers told ESPN Radio in Dallas (103.3 FM) in May. "But I was looking over some video clips that MLS sent to I think it was CNN or ABC of me just training, fooling around and just enjoying football. ... And it kind of just like [made him say], 'Oh my gosh, I miss this stuff.'

"I just need a bit more time to evaluate and to see how things play out, but I've really enjoyed myself [in Galaxy training]. It feels normal to be back. I've grown up playing soccer my whole life. I've always been on a soccer field, so I feel at home on a soccer field."

Rogers' return comes less than a month after 12-year NBA veteran Jason Collins announced he is gay, becoming the first active male athlete to come out. Collins, however, has not competed since the announcement. He is a free agent.

"I would have thought more athletes would have taken that step, I guess," Rogers said. "People have seen how accepting everyone has been of Jason's and my story. I think it's going to take just more time and more athletes coming out. It's all about seeing that it's not something to be afraid of. It's not going to hurt your career."

U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe came out last year before the London Olympics and plays for Lyon in France. She's expected to join the Seattle team of the new National Women's Soccer League in mid-June.

Brittney Griner, the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft by the Phoenix Mercury, and Seimone Augustus of the Minnesota Lynx are among that league's openly gay players. Sheryl Swoopes, a retired WNBA All-Star, came out in 2005 during her playing days.

To get Rogers, the Galaxy had to trade Magee, their leading scorer this season with six goals, to Chicago.

Rogers' MLS rights were held by the Fire after they acquired them in a Feb. 4 trade with the Columbus Crew, who won the MLS Cup in 2008 with Rogers' help. But Rogers had said he was determined to play close to home if he decided to resume his career.

Rogers, who turned 26 last Sunday, also hopes to be a role model for gay teens while playing.

"I want to come back and be that voice, be that role model," Rogers told USA Today. "I want to compete on the field. I want to make it back to the national team. I want to be a role model. I have a lot of motivating factors working for me right now. ...

"There's a lot to be excited about. It's awesome to be part of a movement that is changing our society."

Information from ESPN.com's Marc Stein, The Associated Press and the Press Association was used in this report.

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