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March 16, 2016


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Playing It Forward: A Sports Role Model

March 16, 2016

By William J. Levy Point Scholar Atticus DeProspo


I am aware that the world of college athletics is not always very tolerant; there is a strong masculinity that pervades sports, especially men’s sports, and I was worried about the repercussions I might face if I were honest with my teammates, parents, and family. Because of this fear, I kept a part myself secret for a long time. With the help of an extraordinary role model, I reached a point of self-acceptance and came out as gay on the Cornell Varsity Men’s Soccer Team.

The person who truly motivated me to accept and be proud of myself was professional soccer player, Robbie Rogers. His courage and bravery to free his soul and live his life gave me the push I needed to accept myself and be free of the fear, self-hatred and depression I was constantly feeling. After reading and following his story I felt inspired that I could play soccer and be gay because he was doing it! If Robbie Rogers was able to do it at the highest level, I should be able to at the collegiate level too!

When I read the letter that Robbie had written to his 14-year-old self, it was like he was talking directly to me. He wrote,

"I’m not going to tell you to come out at 14 years old. I’m not going to tell you what’s going to happen in the future either because the journey is important. But I want you to realize that God made you this way for a reason. You’re not damned or going to hell. You didn’t have a choice in this. But you do have a purpose in life, just as everyone does.

When guys say things in the locker room, remind yourself that most of them don’t actually feel this way. They aren’t really homophobic. These are people trying to please others, or think that’s what they’re supposed to say. Everyone is dealing with something, whether they’re gay or straight.

You don’t have to feel like you’re alone.

Which brings me to this: If there’s any great advice I can give you, it’s to find someone you can speak to about what you’re feeling inside, someone you can trust who won’t judge or expose you. Because you can’t walk around with a burden like the one you’re carrying. You’ve got to share this with somebody.”

So I took Robbie Rogers’ advice. I confided in an individual who I always admired for living his truth openly and freely, and he really helped me to accept myself. It was nice to have him as a role model and mentor, who I could trust and feel safe sharing this huge secret I was carrying around inside. I feel that God brought him into my life to help me find happiness, and I am so grateful I could rely on him and he did not pass judgment or expose me, instead he helped me on my journey.

Robbie Rogers’ letter and the advice it provides was part of my journey. At the time I read it, it was exactly what I needed, and now, I feel I must continue to “play” it forward. Because the young people out there struggling to accept themselves should not give up on their dreams of playing soccer— I hope I can help to create more inclusive athletic environments for soccer coaches, players and fans at every level of the game by getting involved with National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak on a NSCAA panel about creating inclusive team cultures for LGBTQ individuals. And who was also on the panel? Robbie Rogers.

Atticus (second from left) and Robbie Roberts (third from left) discussing inclusion in sports. Atticus (second from left) and Robbie Rogers (third from left) discussing inclusion in sports.

I spoke with him individually before our presentation on the panel. We spoke about his pre-season training, his excitement and expectations for the upcoming season with the L.A. Galaxy and I also had the chance to personally thank him for inspiring me to accept myself as a gay soccer player. Meeting Robbie Rogers was a surreal experience, and a reminder of why it is so important to live your life authentically because you never know who you might inspire to find self-acceptance. Listening to Robbie Rogers speak about his experiences coming out to his teammates, family and friends was a clear example to me of the importance for continuing to advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in the world of soccer.

The opportunity to meet Robbie Rogers was a life changing one. So thank you Robbie Rogers for giving me the courage and strength to accept myself and be happy with who I am!

This post was written by William J. Levy Point Scholar Atticus DeProspo

DeProspo-AtticusAfter interning for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor during the summer of 2015, Atticus is attending The University of Alabama School of Law. He received his B.S. degree in industrial & labor relations from the School of Industrial & Labor Relations at Cornell University in May 2015, graduating with honors. He wrote his senior honor thesis on LGBTQ inclusion in sports using human resource analytics.

Read about Atticus.

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