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German team to fly rainbow flag, 'making mark' against homophobia

updated 3:51 AM EDT, Fri July 12, 2013
In a game last season, St. Pauli fans unfurled a banner and showed their support for members of the gay community.
In a game last season, St. Pauli fans unfurled a banner and showed their support for members of the gay community.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • German team St. Pauli to fly rainbow flag in recognition of the gay community
  • American Robbie Rogers was the first openly gay male athlete to play in a U.S. pro match
  • Rogers returned to soccer after retiring and announcing he was gay in February

(CNN) -- Germany's St. Pauli plans on further supporting the gay community by permanently flying the rainbow flag -- which symbolizes gay pride -- at its stadium from this season.

"The club has been active for many years against homophobia and discrimination," St. Pauli's vice-president Gernot Stenger told the club website. "With this flag we are giving this highly visible sign that these issues have great importance at St. Pauli and we are working hard on them."

A member of the club's gay and lesbian fan club, Dirk Brullau, backed the initiative and said it would be a "quantum leap for the football world" if a Bundesliga team followed suit.

Hamburg's St. Pauli, which enjoys a cult following due to the skull and crossbones shown on the flag of its supporters, plays in Germany's second tier.

Its move comes less than two months after American Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a U.S. professional match.

Read: Rogers makes Galaxy debut

April 2013: Rogers on why he came out
Soccer star: Gay but lived stereotype
Rogers: Couldn't play soccer as openly gay

Rogers initially retired from soccer in February, announcing he was gay.

He unretired and signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS, making his debut in late May.

Jason Collins, a pro basketball player who announced he was gay in April, tweeted Rogers good luck.

"People are just really growing and accepting and loving," Rogers said earlier in May. "Those other things are just not that important to them.

"I think as the younger get older and the generations come and go, I think times are just becoming more accepting."

But for now no soccer player from the Bundesliga or one of the other elite divisions in Europe has come out as gay, with German international teammates Mario Gomez and Tim Wiese seemingly taking different views on whether they should.

Read: The Secret Footballer on homophobia

Three years ago, Gomez urged gay players to go public.

Wiese, however, said they would be "destroyed" by "merciless fans," the Guardian reported.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel last year said gay footballers shouldn't be worried about revealing their sexuality.

"Anyone who sums up the strength and bravery should know that they live in a land where they have nothing to fear," said Merkel.

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