Soccer player Robbie Rogers and basketball player Jason Collins took to the stage at the GLSEN Respect Awards on Friday and spoke of their individual coming out stories from earlier this year.
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) works to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
Taking to the stage in Los Angeles for the GLSEN Respect Awards, Rogers said: “One of the things I learned early in school is what happens to people who are different. As I grew up and began to understand how I am, I was consumed by fear. Fear that judgement 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 team mates wouldn’t accept me, so I lived with the secret that I’m gay – obviously.
“As my career moved forward and took me across the world, that fear travelled with me. Every time I heard homophobic outbursts from team mates it took me right back to high school and that fear of people learning that I’m different. So when I came out earlier this year, I knew that I had to this platform that soccer had given me to change schools, and that led me to GLSEN. I wish I had been brave enough to get involved with this incredible organisation when I was in school.”
On coming out, Rogers said: “I remember I told my mom when I was living in London on Skype, and I started crying and she was like ‘it doesn’t matter, I love you okay, so what’s next?’”
Collins went on to welcome the audience to the awards.
After going public about his sexuality in February, Rogers briefly announced his retirement from the game, but he has since returned to professional football and now plays for Los Angeles Galaxy.
Collins in May spoke about his sexuality, confirming he is gay in an article in Sports Illustrated magazine. He said: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”
Steve Grand also performed his single All American Boy at the event on Friday. The video is available to view below.