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Robbie Rogers, first openly gay male professional athlete in US pro sports, retires

Robbie Rogers of LA Galaxy prior to his first appearance after coming out as openly gay
Image: Robbie Rogers joined LA Galaxy after coming out as gay when he was released by Leeds United in 2013

Robbie Rogers, who became the first openly gay male athlete in a major North American professional sport, is retiring from football.

Rogers, 30, came out while initially announcing his retirement in February 2013 shortly after being released by Leeds United, becoming the first professional footballer to do so since Justin Fashanu in 1990.

LA Galaxy then signed Rogers just three months later, with the USA international going on to make 78 MLS appearances before bringing his playing time to a close on Tuesday, having missed the whole of the 2017 campaign due to a long-standing foot injury.

In a statement posted on his social media accounts, Rogers said he had spent much of his career "consumed by fear and shame" as he hid his sexuality.

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After joining LA Galaxy in 2013, Robbie Rogers spoke to Geoff Shreeves about becoming the first openly gay man to compete in Major League Soccer

In an interview with Sky Sports in 2013, Rogers revealed he had made the decision to come out for his own "sanity", and the 18-times capped USA international has now urged those fellow gay and bisexual athletes "still frightened to share their truth with the world" to come out.

Full Robbie Rogers statement

"As a young boy, I dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player and representing my country in front of the world. But as a teenager, I grew more and more consumed by fear and shame. And sadly, at some point the scared kid inside me decided that pursuing my dream meant sacrificing a part of myself and hiding my sexuality from the world instead of embracing it.

Rogers' stand out story
Rogers' stand out story

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"My happiest years as a player are the ones where I could walk through the stadium at the end of games down the tunnel to my partner and son waiting for me at the other end. And my only regret in my 11-year career are the years I spent in the closet.

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"I wish I could have found the courage that so many young individuals have shared with me in the past five years to live honestly and openly as a gay person. These are the young people that inspired me to overcome my fears and return to playing. They're still the kids that send me letters every week. To those kids, I say thank you. My proudest accomplishment in my career is helping to create a more open sport for you.

"None of this would have been possible without my team-mates and brothers on and off the field, without the LA Galaxy and Bruce Arena who saw me as another player and not a distraction, or without the fans who judged me for my work ethic and my play and not my sexuality. And finally, it couldn't have been possible without my family, who loved me through all of my ups and downs and always supported my dreams and still do.

"Lastly to all of the women and men who are still frightened to share their truth with the world, I'd encourage you to come out. By sharing who you are, you will not only be improving your own life but inspiring and literally saving the lives of young people across the world. You deserve to take that same walk, down the players' tunnel and have your own partner or loved ones waiting for you.

"Again, thank you to everyone who watched or help me follow these dreams. I could never have imagined the happiness I'll take with me into retirement and into my next chapter."

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