In a significant moment for the NHL, Seattle Kraken’s assistant athletic trainer, Justin Rogers, bravely shared his journey of self-acceptance and coming out as a gay man.
In a heartfelt letter titled “A Letter To My Younger Self,” he opened up about the challenges and growth he experienced along the way.
For Assistant Athletic Trainer Justin Rogers, the path to understanding his identity as a gay man working in sports took time.
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) November 3, 2023
Rogers, in his letter, encourages his younger self to be patient and understanding, as he gradually unravels the complexities of his identity.
He touches on the initial feelings of confusion and isolation, which many individuals in similar situations can relate to.
One pivotal moment was in 2014 when Rogers gathered the courage to come out to his family by handing them index cards on Christmas Day. It took nine months before he shared his sexuality with his two best friends.
Eight years down the later, Justin Rogers found the support of Kraken’s general manager, Ron Francis, who embraced his decision to go public with his story. Rogers had nothing but praise for Francis, highlighting his unwavering support.
Justin Rogers added how Seattle has helped him, “There will be athletes drafted in Seattle’s expansion draft who will do all sorts of research about their new city. One will tell you and everyone around them they learned Seattle has one of the biggest LGBTQ+ communities. Another Kraken player will tell you about music he heard from a queer artist at a drag brunch with his girlfriend while on All-Star break. Now you will have a locker room with players and staff that know your sexuality and support you”
His announcement is particularly noteworthy given the NHL’s previous criticisms regarding inclusivity, such as banning the wearing of specialty warm-up jerseys and initially prohibiting colored tape.
However, the Kraken have taken a different path, celebrating diversity and representation. They made history by having an all-Black broadcasting duo. They also partnered with the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe for their jersey patch, a first for an Indigenous tribe in the NHL.
Despite the league’s challenges, the Kraken remain committed to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. The Kraken plans to host Pride Night and auction off Pride jerseys for charity during the season.
Rogers’ decision to come out as a gay support staff member is a powerful step forward in promoting inclusivity and acceptance in the world of professional hockey.