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Festival of Books: How soccer's Robbie Rogers beat fear to pen 'Coming Out'

Soccer pro Robbie Rogers says on coming out: 'It was the fear of ... not being able to play a sport I loved.'

Before football players Michael Sam and Jason Collins came out, Robbie Rogers was the name on everyone's lips when talking about gays in professional sports.

The soccer player, now on the L.A. Galaxy, went public almost three years ago.

Rogers chronicled the experience in a memoir published last year, "Coming Out to Play," which he discussed with Times columnist Chris Erskine on Sunday at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

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Rogers talked about the benefits of putting his story in book form.

"I wasn’t expecting it to be so emotional," he said about the process. "To write about it, I think that was the best thing that could've happened to me. Writing a book has been so helpful for me as a man."

Since doing so, he has been able to face some of the issues he had with his parents and siblings, he said. Rogers also had to reconcile his religion -- he grew up Roman Catholic -- with his sexuality.

"I can’t follow a faith that doesn’t support who I am," he said.

As for other gay athletes who haven’t come out, he says he remembers the feeling -- and the fear. "It was the fear of being [an] outcast or not being able to play a sport I loved," he said.

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As Erskine said, Rogers felt he had to choose between the sport and his sexuality. "I never thought I would come out, or come out and go back to playing soccer," Rogers said.

The biggest surprise after going public, he said, were responses from people who had said some of the most homophobic things in his presence.

"It just goes to show that many people don’t mean the things they say," Rogers said. "They’re just trying to live up to a stereotype or say what they think others want to hear."

MORE FROM THE FESTIVAL OF BOOKS:

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Science writers debate -- Is there a morality gene?

Why Jacqueline Woodson used poetry in 'Brown Girl Dreaming'

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