Former U.S. national team and Columbus Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers comes out as gay, stops playing soccer

Robbie Rogers (right) came to prominence in Major League Soccer playing for the Columbus Crew from 2007 through 2011. (Bret Hartman/AP file photo)

The American soccer community was jolted Friday afternoon when one of the sport's more familiar faces, 25-year-old Robbie Rogers, declared himself to be gay and stepped away from playing the sport.

Despite his relatively young age, Rogers enjoyed a successful career with the Columbus Crew, English club Leeds United and the U.S. national team. Among his most prominent moments was scoring the tying goal in the U.S.' 1-1 draw with Mexico at Lincoln Financial Field in July of 2011. That was Jurgen Klinsmann's first game as U.S. head coach.

Rogers moved from Columbus to Leeds after the 2012 MLS season. His prominence faded after that due to injury, and Leeds released him last month. The California native decided to return to Major League Soccer, and the Chicago Fire traded to gain his rights from Columbus.

But Rogers won't be playing for Chicago or any other MLS team, at least for the next while. He posted a brief and eloquent statement on his personal website Friday afternoon, which read in part: 

For the past 25 year I have been afraid, afraid to show whom I really was because of fear. Fear that judgment and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations. Fear that my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret. Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams. 

Dreams of going to a World Cup, dreams of The Olympics, dreams of making my family proud. What would life be without these dreams? Could I live a life without them? 

Life is only complete when your loved ones know you. When they know your true feelings, when they know who and how you love. Life is simple when your secret is gone. Gone is the pain that lurks in the stomach at work, the pain from avoiding questions, and at last the pain from hiding such a deep secret. 

Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay. Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently.

Rogers is the most prominent American soccer player to yet come out, but he is not the first. Another former Crew player, David Testo, publicly declared his sexual orientation in November of 2011. Testo spent most of his career in the lower divisions of American soccer, including with the Montréal Impact before the club moved to MLS.

Last year, Leander Schaerlaeckens wrote this profile of Testo for SB Nation. It tells the player's story in exceptional detail, and I would very much recommend that you read it.

When Rogers made his announcement, there was quite a bit of reaction across the soccer landscape. Some of the strongest words of praise came from Rogers' former teammates with the U.S. national team.

In addition, the U.S. Soccer Federation issued this formal statement:

As a Federation we support all our athletes who have had the courage to address this deeply personal topic. We are proud of Robbie. He has been an outstanding representative of our National Team program for many years. We support him and wish him great success in the future.

Here's a collection of what has been said to and about Rogers. 

Reaction to Robbie Rogers coming out

Storified by Jonathan Tannenwald· Fri, Feb 15 2013 13:12:49 Just getting some sh*t off my chest. Rogers
Some serious respect for Robbie Rogers, to face his fears & have the courage to come out. He says he is retiring from soccer at age of 25Ives Galarcep
“@robbierogers: Just getting some sh*t off my chest.” - Congratulations brother. Proud of you.The Original Winger
Major respect to @robbierogers on his decision to come out. Will be missed on the field. Leaving the game at 25.Grant Wahl
“ @robbierogers #robbierogers Just getting some sh*t off my chest.” Respect man. Proud of you bro.Juan Agudelo
We tried to sign @robbierogers before he left MLS to go to Leeds. Big props to him on his decision today. Great guy and wish him the best.Merritt Paulson
“@robbierogers: Just getting some sh*t off my chest.” Congrats, Robbie! Really happy for you.Omar Gonzalez
@robbierogers proud to call you my friend. #respectBenny Feilhaber
“@robbierogers: getting some sh*t off my chest.” Congrats brotha. Wish you the bestJordan Harvey
100 percent love and support for one of my best friends Robbie Rogers. You will be missed on the pitch. Amazing talent, amazing person.Sacha Kljestan
@robbierogers Respect Robbie. Come and join us on the show sometime.....Richard Keys
Way to go @robbierogers. Be happy my man.Kyle Martino
@robbierogers Brave men like you will make it so that one day there's no need for an announcement.That day can't arrive soon enough.#SupportEddie Pope
Much love and respect to my boy @robbierogers ! Proud to be your friend broStuart Holden
@robbierogers We love u bro. It take lots of guts to be a Man and U r a Man and a #FreeMan. Life if Beautiful Enjoy it. Love u bro.KEI KAMARA
#USMNT, former @MarylandMSoccer player Robbie Rogers announces he’s gay. Cirovski: "I am incredibly proud of Robbie." Stouffer
Welcome to the family @RobbieRogers.Lori Lindsey
The bravery of Robbie Rogers in commendable, I hope he realizes that he doesn't need to retire. He will be more supported than he knows.Kasey Keller
@robbierogers Nothing but love and support to you, Robbie. Hang in there bud....Drew Moor
@robbierogers proud of u buddy. Hope u only retire of ur over soccer and want to pursue other interests.Carlos Bocanegra
Confident that most, if not all, in Crew locker room knew Rogers was gay. And it was fine. That's a good sign for others in RR's position.Brian Straus
@robbierogers I don't even know you and I'm really proud of you! #sopowerfulAli Krieger
Proud of you bro @robbierogers! #leader #strength!brad guzan
You never say never, but told that Robbie Rogers does not plan to resume playing career. #Crew96 #MLS #USMNTShawn Mitchell
Extremely proud of the courage from @robbierogers. Truth is not always easy to display, but truly strong people always find a way #RESPECTOguchi Onyewu
Kudos to @robbierogers for his bravery and honesty & congrats to @ussoccer and @MLS Families for supporting him. #respectRichard Motzkin
Frank Klopas on Rogers Announcement: "Yesterday I thought he was a good player, I still think that today." #cf97 #MLSChicago Fire
Full statement from #crew96 on @robbierogers announcing he is gay and stepping away from soccer:Adam Jardy
"Robbie Rogers was a valuable member of the Columbus Crew and a dedicated community ambassador during his time with the club. (con't)"Adam Jardy
"The organization wishes him every success in his future pursuits." #crew96Adam Jardy
#crew96 GK Andy Gruenebaum on @robbierogers: "I love him no matter who he is. He’s a great guy and that’s all that matters."Adam Jardy
@robbierogers you're an incredible manGO! Athletes
@robbierogers Congrats, follow your heart, hope the game does not leave you and we all support you.Tony Sanneh