KICKING DOWN DOORS
The 26- year-old midfielder ended a brief retirement by signing with the Galaxy, and on May 26 he became the first openly gay male athlete to play in an American team sport.
DAN PATRICK:Why did you retire back in February?
ROBBIE ROGERS: I retired because I came out. I didn't want to be a puppet. I didn't want to be torn in all these different directions. I'm really happy I did it that way.
DP:Was it easier to return to the game in the U.S. rather than England?
RR: The soccer fans in England definitely are more brutal. But I've learned from this that people are sensitive and have been very supportive through the whole process. That surprised me. I didn't know what to expect. I just wanted to be honest with my family and friends and with myself.
DP:Did Jason Collins's SI cover factor into your decision to come back?
RR: No, but I was happy he did it, and that our society gave him such a positive response. I hope more athletes make the same decision, but I'd be a hypocrite if I was to pressure anybody to do that.
DP:Did you find that maybe you had worried too much about the reaction before you came out?
RR: Yes and no. There's a reason athletes feel like they can't come out. Sports are a bit homophobic. If they weren't, everyone would feel fine doing it. I've always heard things growing up in locker rooms. That's the reason I felt that way. It's not something athletes just make up in their minds.
DP:Do you want to be an activist?
RR: At first I didn't. I think that's why it took me so long to tell the rest of the world after I told my family. After receiving e-mails and letters from everyone around the world, I realize I have a platform. I believe God put me in this place for a reason. Now I want to help, especially younger kids who deal with this stuff. I know not everyone receives the amount of support I did.
DP:Do you wrestle with religion?
RR: That's been difficult for me my whole life. I would be selfish to think I did this all by myself. I know deep in my heart this is what I'm supposed to be doing. God has me doing this for a reason. It's hard to explain faith. I'm a strong believer in my relationship with God.
DP:Do you want to play on the U.S. team again?
RR: I'd love to be back with the U.S. It's been two years. First I have to get back to playing well with my club team.
DP:Is flopping gamesmanship or is it soft?
RR: There's a balance. You don't want to be known for flopping. That gets annoying. When I watch on TV, I'm annoyed. As an athlete I understand it. Sometimes you have to be smarter than the other guys. If a guy is being a bit too aggressive, sometimes you use that against him.
DP:Have you flopped recently?
RR: Recently? No. (Laughs.) But I have definitely flopped in my career.
DP:Well, you haven't flopped recently because you were retired.
RR: True. I had to get away from flopping. (Laughs.) That's why I retired.
"Chris is a free agent. He's going to have a lot of say in a lot of things. He is entitled to his opinion, but he made first-team All-NBA on defense and on offense both seasons [he played under me].
—VINNY DEL NEGRO, ex-Clippers coach, on whether Chris Paul's free agency influenced the team's decision to fire Del Negro
NBC analyst Stan Van Gundy said the NBA could end flopping: "If left to their own, veteran referees would simply quit giving those guys calls even if they did get fouled.... The problem is the league office wants the foul called." ... Tom Curran, Patriots reporter for CSN New England, told me the team is concerned about tight end Rob Gronkowski's public image. "They're happy with his on- and off-field work ethic," Curran said. "But they'd like to see his nipples a little less. Keep your shirt on and people will be happy." ... NBC NHL broadcaster Doc Emrick said that recently fired Rangers coach John Tortorella's disciplinarian style used to be the norm: "It was said Scotty Bowman's players liked him one day a year— the day they were skating the Cup around." ... I asked TNT's Ernie Johnson if he ever got angry at Charles Barkley. "Just once," Johnson said. "During the playoffs a few years ago, I had my notes on index cards and Charles reached over and ripped them in half. I was ready to kill him.... Every now and then Charles looks over and makes a motion like he's going to rip my cards."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 FOR SI (PATRICK)
JEFF GROSS/GETTY IMAGES (ROGERS)
BRIAN BLANCO/EPA (VAN GUNDY)
COURTESY OF CSNNE.COM (CURRAN)
BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES (EMRICK)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (JOHNSON)