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Robbie Rogers, gay midfielder, makes barrier-busting a reality

LA Galaxy midfielder enters match to crowd cheers, teammate support

By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun

8:01 AM EDT, May 28, 2013

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This time, it played out in real life -- not on the pages of Sports Illustrated, but on the pitch.

When openly-gay midfielder Robbie Rogers trotted onto the field for the LA Galaxy in this weekend's match against the Seattle Sounders, he made history "as the 1st openly gay athlete to play in American professional sports," as the Galaxy's official Twitter feed read.

There is video: The teammate Rogers subs in for, Juninho, gives him double high-fives. Another teammate gives him a friendly slap as he runs into position. And the crowd cheers.

Rogers, who came out earlier this year, had five touches. He had one tackle. He had three completed passes.

In other words, he really played.

When active NBA player Jason Collins' came out earlier this month in Sports Illustrated, it was big news. But Collins' chances of getting signed as a free agent and playing basketball again aren't tremendously great. He may not hit the court as an openly gay man.

I don't mean to take away from the importance of what Collins did by coming out.

But what Rogers did this weekend felt like something more to me.

After the game, Rogers, who was signed by the Galaxy on Saturday after coming out of a self-imposed retirement, said he'd been nervous in his apartment for two hours before the Sunday night game, but felt better once he'd gotten to the stadium.

He said he knew a lot of people were watching the game, watching him take those steps.

And they were. (Here's one take on it from the L.A. Times.)

Sports are all about motion, physicality, presence. Team sports are about supporting one another, backing each other up, communicating.

Seeing Rogers in motion, with the support of his teammates, made me believe, for the first time, in the transformation of professional sports into a welcoming place for out players.

It made it real.