(LOS ANGELES) — Soccer player Robbie Rogers came out of a short-lived retirement Saturday to join the Los Angeles Galaxy, becoming the first openly gay player in Major League Soccer.
The 26-year-old midfielder, who briefly walked away from the sport in February after coming out in a letter he posted online, said he was “excited” to return to the game.
“It doesn’t matter that I’m gay or where I’m from,” he said at a news conference Saturday.
Rogers, who played on the United States national team and was a professional soccer player in England, said he had received support from family, fans and players, including Galaxy star Landon Donovan.
“I know I’m very motivated and I want to be better than I was before,” he said. “I want to prove to everyone in this room and everyone in this world that I’m a great footballer, a great soccer player.
“It doesn’t matter that I’m gay,” he said. ” That’s not important.”
Rogers’ return to the game comes on the heels of NBA center Jason Collins becoming the first openly gay men’s professional basketball player.
In a recent interview with Nightline, Rogers said he hid his sexuality all his life so he could fit in with the “macho, macho man” world of soccer.
“Because it’s sports. It’s the stereotype that you’re supposed to be this manly guy that is making tackles. It’s beating up on other guys,” he said, while he was still contemplating a return to professional soccer.
“Gay athletes are athletes,” he said in the Nightline interview. “If I go back to soccer, I want to go back as Robbie. I just want it to be as simple as that.”
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Jethro Mullen, CNN
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Lisa France, CNN
Doug Criss and Emily Smith, CNN