Seattle Kraken sports therapist Justin Rogers became the first openly gay man to sit on the bench in the National Hockey League (NHL) when he made the public announcement on Friday.
The American has been with the Washington State team since 2021, and said in an interview with ESPN that he does not find it difficult to disclose his sexual orientation to general manager Ron Francis.
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Rogers told his story in a letter to himself posted on the Kraken website. As a teenager, he was told he could never work in a sports locker room, but he quickly silenced the bad tongues.
“Walking into every locker room as gay will test your fear of acceptance as it does with many other people in the LGBT community. You know you are different. But you will discover that there is a community in the sports world made up of LGBTQ+ individuals like you,” he wrote. Michigan native.
He admitted to hearing a lot of derogatory terms about gay people while working and having to pick his battles. At the Kraken, he immediately felt the support of his co-workers and players.
The story of how he came to hockey is quite entertaining in itself. It happened while Rogers was working at Pennsylvania State University.
“The first athlete you’ll tell at Penn State will be a young Russian player who, right after you score, skates to the bench, turns around and asks you if you’re gay. You’ll be shocked and ask him to repeat the question. He’ll rephrase it by asking you if you like skittles and rainbows. You’ll confirm “For him, yes, but he must return to playing.”
“After the game, the player will invite you into his locker to let you know he has no problem with skittles and rainbows, which is a subtle way of showing his approval,” Rogers concluded.
Today, Coach is involved in the Seattle community by giving back. He is now trying to instill his growing confidence in other young people who find themselves in his situation.
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