President Barack Obama greeted both the Kings and Galaxy at the White House on Monday to salute them for winning NHL and Major League Soccer titles, respectively, last year. But he saved his most lavish praise for Galaxy defender Robbie Rogers, the first openly gay male athlete to compete in a major U.S. professional sport.
"I want to recognize what Robbie Rogers of the Galaxy has done for a lot of people by blazing a trail," the president said. "My guess is that, as an athlete, Robbie wants to win first and foremost. That's what competition is all about.
"But Robbie, you've also inspired a whole lot of folks here and around the world. And we are very proud of you."
The president then turned and pointed to a smiling Rogers, standing among his teammates.
Rogers called the recognition "a moment I'll cherish always."
"I just wasn't expecting it," he said. "You don't consciously think of yourself as being a gay athlete. You just think of yourself as being part of the Galaxy, a team that's won championships.
"Obviously it was a difficult journey for me to come out and then come back to soccer. Just for someone that is so accomplished, that is so well-respected -- and obviously he's our president -- to single you out and acknowledge you and to kind of just congratulate you, I'll never forget it.
"And I've already texted my mom about it."
One other player singled out by the president was midfielder Landon Donovan, but he was recognized for his absence. Donovan, who retired after December's MLS Cup win over New England, is traveling and did not attend the White House ceremony.