Openly gay soccer player to face RailHawks Wednesday - WNCN: News, Weather

Openly gay soccer player to face RailHawks Wednesday

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Robbie Rogers, the first openly gay male athlete to play in a U.S. professional league, will play Wednesday in Cary against the RailHawks. Robbie Rogers, the first openly gay male athlete to play in a U.S. professional league, will play Wednesday in Cary against the RailHawks.
CARY, N.C. -

The L.A. Galaxy's openly gay player Robbie Rogers is making history, but he says he's actually hoping to reverse it. 

The RailHawks upset the Galaxy last season 2-1, and Rogers says he's here to play.

"My goal is to help these guys -- a lot of the younger guys -- prepare themselves," said Rogers.

He also said he expects a visitor's welcome.

"I think they're going to boo me like any other player. I wouldn't expect anything differently," Rogers said with a shrug.

Rogers made history on Sunday night when he became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a U.S. professional league, making his Major League Soccer debut in a home game with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The RailHawks' Zach Schilawski says his team respects Rogers as a player.

"He's a good player, so happy for him, happy for the league, happy to get a little more buzz around the sport," Schilawski said.

The RailHawks last faced the Galaxy in front of a sold-out crowd. And after $6 million in renovations and added thousands of new seats, the RailHawks hope to sell-out again this year to even more fans.

That's a prospect that even Rogers with the visiting Galaxy finds exciting.

"Whenever you're a player, you want to play in those kinds of stadiums and kind of add more excitement and more meaning to the game," Rogers said.

Rogers received loud cheers Sunday from the crowd of 24,811 as he ran onto the pitch, with fans chanting his last name. Rogers' family, including his grandparents, and friends were in the stands.

He ran by teammate Landon Donovan, who slapped his hand and patted him on the back as he took his position.

"Because of the nature of the way sports has been for so many years - the macho culture that's been embraced by everybody - it's of interest to everybody," Donovan said. "Now, hopefully, the hype about it is over and he can get back to being a soccer player, which is what he wants to do."

Rogers retired from the sport in February, when he revealed in a post on his blog that he is gay. He has been training with the Galaxy since April at the invitation of coach Bruce Arena.

Rogers has the support of his teammates, who understand how much he wants to regain the form that once earned him a spot on the U.S. national team.

"I'm sure he's delighted to get that off his back," said Galaxy captain Robbie Keane, who had his first career three-goal game in MLS. "It's time for him to concentrate on just being part of this team."

But it took time for Rogers to decide he wanted to accept Arena's offer to train with the Galaxy. Eventually, he knew he wanted to resume his career with the team located not far from his hometown of Huntington Beach.

Rogers isn't sure what awaits him as the Galaxy heads out on a five-game road trip, and he is held up as a role model.

"This is a learning process for me," he said. "I would ask these people to remember I'm human as well. I'll try to be a good person through this whole process."

Sean Maroney

Sean returns home to North Carolina after spending seven years reporting around the world and across the United States. More>>

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