FIFA, the international governing body of soccer has decided to hold the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar, a decision that openly gay pro soccer player Robbie Rogers has called “insane.”
And no wonder! Russia has a law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors” and in Qatar, gay sex is illegal. After the Sochi Winter Games the international demand to change the Olympic Charter to include wording specifically protecting LGBT athletes was just passed. Was FIFA not paying attention?
Inspired by Jason Collins, Rogers came out as gay in 2013 after retiring from the English Leeds United team, thinking he’d never have an opportunity as an openly gay athlete to play again professionally. But it didn’t take long for the LA Galaxy to invite him to play, making him a fan favorite, a media darling and best, another powerful voice for gay athletes.
With a new memoir just out and a new TV comedy series based on his coming out in the works, Rogers is the highest profile gay soccer player in the world. He just helped the Galaxy win the 2014 MLS Cup title and in November signed a multi-year contract extension with the club.
Just when you think we’re making progress in sports diversity, a decision like FIFA’s seems like one step forward and two steps back. Their decision spawns very real safety concerns for players and fans alike. Rogers has said in an interview with Sky Sports “If I were to go, I would possibly be imprisoned or beat up or stoned to death.”
Calling the decision “pretty ridiculous,” he said “I would never pressure anyone into speaking about the issue but it is absolutely insane. Of course there is going to be another gay footballer there,” Rogers continued. “I think it is an issue that needs to be spoken about and discussed with FIFA because every player should feel safe when they go to a World Cup.”