May 27, 2013
By Charles Cuttone
14 is not 42
Robbie Rogers did a courageous thing by coming out, and then un-retiring, becoming on Sunday night the first openly gay male athlete to play in a game for a major professional sports team in the United States.
In announcing his homosexuality back in March, Rogers made a decision that he was no longer comfortable hiding who he is. The implication has always been that in the testosterone-saturated world of male sports, an openly gay player would not be accepted.
Since the announcement, his subsequent decision to train with the Galaxy and the eventual deal that brought him into the MLS fold and ultimately led to his appearance on the field at the HDC on Sunday, Rogers has received support from all areas, Commissioner Don Garber, the Galaxy management, his teammates, the media and players on other teams, as well as athletes in other sports.
So let's not confuse Rogers with Jackie Robinson. Many have, after seeing the movie 42, and it's really like comparing apples to battleships.
Robinson became the first black to play in organized professional baseball at a time when many areas of this country were still segregated. By law. It was before the civil rights movement and many credit his signing by the Brooklyn Dodgers as the start of that movement.
Robinson could never hide who he was. He was a black man. When he signed with the Dodgers, many of his own teammates signed a petition, not wanting to play with him. He could not eat in restaurants with his teammates or stay in the same hotels. He was spiked, hit with pitches and harangued by opposing teams, and faced the taunts of more than a few fans in opposing ballparks.
He faced death threats and in some towns where the Dodgers played during spring training, the threat of being arrested for playing on the same team as whites.
All that because of the color of his skin, something he could never hide.
Rogers coming out, like Robinson's signing, will surely clear the way for other players in the same situation, and it may indeed lead to some of the rights--such as marriage-- that is rightfully being sought by the gay community. But by and large, modern society has recognized people's right to be who they are.
Rogersí teammate Robbie Keane summed it up when he said " Of course youíre going to get some (expletive) idiots that are going to say something. Thatís part of life and society,"
But by and large, society in 2013 is more accepting of gays than society in 1947 was of blacks.