›› HARDtalk with Robbie Rogers ‹‹

Stephen Sackur interviews openly gay footballer Robbie Rogers.

2015 | 25 mins | UK.

the bitter truth about homophobia in the so-called beautiful game.

a BBC World News presentation: first broadcast Monday, 26th January, 2015 - 4:30am.

Official Synopsis:

Stephen Sackur speaks to Robbie Rogers, a US international footballer who broke the sport's great taboo by publicly coming out as gay. Why haven't others followed his lead?

Dave says:

Broadcast in the early hours of the morning was this remarkably candid interview with openly gay footballer Robbie Rogers. Not that Rogers meant to be known by this label, having and in a career hampered by injury, announced his retirement at the same time he came out, an act that makes for an alarming indictment of how Rogers felt that he could not be openly gay and still play football. But then, LA Galaxy came calling.

That said and to be frank, over the years I've reviewed many a work devoted to homophobia in sport and in particular in football, including the BBC's own Inside Sport Special - The Last Taboo. Yet here face to face with journalist Stephen Sackur, the bitter truth about homophobia in the so-called beautiful game was laid bare, as Rogers cut to the chase about the "pack mentality" of the sport, that of an inherent mindset in which players seemingly go along with homophobic banter in the locker room, saying things that they think they're meant to say, even if they don't actually agree with the views expressed. Indeed and as Rogers aptly noted, the same guys who had been homophobic before he came out, were totally supportive of him after he came out.

Not that Rogers back then, was any different from the members of the pack. Raised in a family who were once not supportive of gay rights, he dated girls, thinking that the 'right girl' would make him straight. Indeed, to the world he was just one of the lads; only in truth he felt like an outsider in a game that's supposed to be a team sport. Depressed and thinking that it might be easier not to be alive, something had to change and something did, for within weeks after being released from his contract with Leeds United, Rogers announced in February 2013 via his personal blog that "I'm a soccer player, I'm Christian, and I'm gay".

Yet will anything change in the sport? For the institutionalized homophobia of the game remains in play. Indeed, just how comfortable would any footballer feel about being open with their sexuality, when in training the words "don't pass the ball like a faggot" are hurled around the pitch, like the ball itself. Change has to come and not just from every team, club and their supporters, but from the very top. No surprise then that it wasn't long before the subject of FIFA came up, given their shocking decision to award the hosting of the 2018 World Cup to Russia, and even worse to Qatar in 2022. Heavily criticized by many for a multitude of reasons, just what does this say of the governing body of association football when in preaching to eliminate homophobia in the game, they then award the hosting of the prestigious World Cup to two countries that have appalling records on gay rights. Frankly, it stinks. But then, few hold any respect for FIFA these days.

As for Rogers; well, he has no regrets, happy with where he is now in life, at ease to say that he plays for LA Galaxy and "I'm an openly gay man". Just how difficult it is for others to utter those words, is reflected in a comment that Rogers' made, one that all too poignantly illustrates how things have changed little in the intervening years, given since coming out other sportsmen have sought his advice on being out 'n' proud; apart that is from a single professional footballer. Now there's a telling statement if ever there was one on how in this day and age Premier League football simply cannot, OR should that be will not deal with openly gay players, preferring them to remain in the sporting closet.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - none. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 

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