President Obama recognized on Monday a gay soccer player for “blazing a trail” as the first openly gay male athlete to compete in a top North American professional sports league.
In the East Room of the White House, Obama recognized Robbie Rogers at an event honoring his team, Los Angeles Galaxy, for winning the 2014 MLS Cup. The event also honored the Los Angeles Kings for winning the 2014 Stanley Cup.
“I want to recognize what Robbie Rogers of the Galaxy has done for a lot of people by blazing a trail as one of professional sports’ first openly gay players,” Obama said. “My guess is that, as an athlete, Robbie wants to win first and foremost — that’s what competition is all about. But, Robbie, you’ve also inspired a whole lot of folks here and around the world, and we are very proud of you.”
Obama’s words echo what Jason Collins, the now-retired first openly gay NBA player, had to say about Rogers, calling him someone who “blazed a trail” for gay athletes.
Rogers, 27, came out as gay in 2013, shortly after he announced he would retire from soccer after playing in the United Kingdom. But in 2013, Rogers announced he had signed on with Los Angeles and went on last year to become the first openly gay male athlete to win a major team professional sports title in the United States when the Galaxy won the Major League Soccer Cup.
In an YouTube video posted later by Los Angeles Galaxy, Rogers said he wasn’t expecting the recognition from Obama at the event.
“Obviously, it was difficult journey for me to come out, and then come back to soccer, and then just everything that’s been involved with that,” Rogers said. “So, just for someone that is so accomplished, that is so very respected, obviously he’s our president, to single you out and acknowledge you to kind of just congratulate you is — I’ll never forget definitely and I’ve already texted my mom about it. It was a really special moment and I’ll cherish it always.”