Pro soccer player Robbie Rogers returned to the field for the first time in two months on Saturday night, and was repeatedly abused by a player on the opposing team who called him “queer” several times.
Rogers said he was “shock,” because after four seasons playing in the MLS, he has “yet to hear another player use that or any other gay slur during a game.”
It was similar homophobic abuse that pushed Rogers into early retirement in 2013. After he publicly came out as gay in a statement on his website, he said the threat of being openly gay around homophobic locker room culture and the pressure from fans and the media became too overwhelming.
In a note posted on Facebook, Rogers described the rage he felt at the continued cycle of abuse, and how he kept his cool as the rest of the game played out.
“I went to bed upset last night,” he said. “Angry at this player and and his ignorance. Angry at myself for not doing more in the moment. Sad the we still live in a time where this kind of intolerance still exists in my sport and elsewhere.”
He added: “And if I’m being honest, I was even a bit ashamed that a single word could make me feel, even just for a moment, all the awful feelings I felt for so many years: small, less than, wrong, and unworthy of love and respect by my family or god forbid by my teammates.”
Rogers is enjoying fatherhood with his boyfriend, TV producer Greg Berlanti, after the recent birth of their son, Caleb. He said after a cooling-down period at home, “the anger has faded and the predominant emotions left are just love and gratitude.”
“I’m happy that I practiced restraint worthy of my sport. I’m thankful for the many players on my team and even the opposing one who apologized to me for one man’s actions. Today, I woke up grateful to work in organization filled with so many players and coaches who have worked hard to practice tolerance of everyone and to help change a culture.
But mostly I’m proud of myself. I am proud more than ever that I had the courage to come out as a queer man. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to share my story with others and to have gotten to play this sport I love so much as an openly gay person. I am, more than ever, thankful to have teammates and a family that love and support me for the son, brother, partner, father and queer player that I am.”
Rogers ended his note with encouragement for “all athletes to find the courage within themselves to come out.”
In response to the note, which racked up over 2,500 likes in less than a day, the United Soccer League (USL) tweeted a statement confirming it was launching “a full investigation into allegations of homophobic slurs.”
“The USL has zero tolerance for any discriminatory behavior,” it added.
— USL (@USL) August 21, 2016
Check out Robbie’s full Facebook post below: