US footballer Robbie Rogers says he was left “scarred” hearing homophobic language at school, meaning he felt unable to be open about his sexuality until last year.
“For 25 years, you’ve lived a certain way and with distance,” Rogers, who now plays for Los Angeles Galaxy, said in an interview for CNN.
He later reversed his decision to quit the game and signed for LA Galaxy.
Rogers told CNN he realised that he was gay when he was “about 13 or 14”, but found it difficult to accept his sexuality, because of a homophobic environment at school.
“Whether it was joking or whether it was malicious, I just heard so many different things that scarred me and made me think that there’s no chance I’m ever going to come out – ever – to anyone,” he said.
“So that’s probably why, again, I kept it in for so long. That’s why I didn’t tell anyone until I was 25.”
Rogers added: “You’re afraid to tell people and be open with stuff and so it’s hard to just change. A lot of gay men and women who aren’t out and don’t really accept that they’re gay, live with a bit of self-hate.
“So I hate to be so blunt about it, but hating yourself is very damaging.”
He told the BBC’s Newsnight programme: “This time last year I thought I’d never play again, that it just wasn’t possible, and then I went back. So I guess I’d never say never, everything is possible at this point.”
You can watch Rogers’ CNN interview in full on “World Sport Presents: Journey of a Gay Athlete”, to be broadcast on CNN this Saturday 8pm and Sunday 11am (GMT).