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February 26, 2013 at 1:31 PM

Marc Burch speaks to reporters for the first time since his suspension for using a gay slur

Sounders FC will be without Marc Burch in Saturday’s MLS opener against Montreal. The veteran defender will be serving the final game of a three-game suspension for using a gay slur in the Western Conference semifinals against Real Salt Lake.

Reporters spoke to Burch for the first time since the incident after Monday’s practice (he had issued a statement of apology last year) and here is a transcript of the interview:

*     *     *

(It’s been a few months since the incident where you used a gay slur. Is that still on your mind and something you deal with?) “I think it will always be on the back of my mind. You make a mistake and you want to fix it as much as you can. That’s what I’ve tried to do. It’s the only thing I can do. I can’t make up for what I did. All I can do is just prove from here on out that nothing like that is ever going to happen again. That’s not who I am. That’s not what I do. That’s not part of my game. That’s not part of this team’s game. I made a mistake and since then I think I’m doing the right things. That’s the only thing I can do from here on out.”

(The Stranger had a story about you hanging out with an openly gay soccer team. Can you tell us about that experience?) “Yeah, it was a gay and lesbian community soccer team. I don’t know if they had the league or are just part of the league, but yeah, I went out on a Sunday up in Capitol Hill and played some soccer, kicked the ball around. It was a lot of fun. The guys were great. I got to score a goal. There wasn’t much defending going on … (laughs) … but it was a lot of fun. I think everybody enjoyed the day, and some guys are trying to make some tackles and steal the ball from me. It was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it.”

(Do you feel like people knew who you were? Was there are ice-breaking introduction?) “Not at all. Obviously they knew of the incident, but it wasn’t something that needed to be spoken about. They understood I wasn’t coming out there to make myself look good. I just wanted to let them know that it wasn’t something that (reflects) who I am. When I went up there, I think everyone just appreciated the fact that I was there to enjoy the game and enjoy the game with them. I think everybody had a good time.”

(How did you find out about that?) “I asked Taylor Graham, who helps us with player appearances. I asked him if he could contact someone that I could (talk to) to become involved in the gay and lesbian soccer community. Then he got back to me and we just found a time and date where it worked out. I had a busy offseason, so I wanted to make sure I got it done before I took off.”

(Obviously getting suspended wasn’t good for you or the team, but is it important for the league to take a hard stance on this issue?) “Yeah, absolutely. I knew when the suspension was coming down that it needed to be harsh, because it’s a harsh thing that I did. I think that (MLS commissioner) Don Garber made the right decision. I wish it could’ve been just the end of the regular season, and I could’ve started this season new and fresh, and try to get it off people’s mind, but three games is three games. Unfortunately this is the third game from when it happened, and I’m ready to face it and start my season right after it.”

(Being suspended for two playoff games, those probably would’ve been starts for you, what do you remember from that?) “I think sitting up in the stands during our home game against L.A. was the most nervous I’ve ever been for a soccer game. I’ve played in a lot of games, a lot of big games, but just watching the team, I wish I could’ve been out there. I think it would’ve eased my nerves a little bit if I was out there. But it’s tough to watch the playoffs. It’s tough to watch your team go out. I feel like I had an impact on our team not making it through, so this year is the year that I’m going to make up for it.”

(Did you notice the reaction that was received by your tweet of support for Robbie Rogers?) “I hope people didn’t think that that was just because of what happened last year. I mean I went to school with Robbie, and I love Robbie to death. We spent a lot of time together when I was at Maryland. That was the big thing, is I was supporting my friend and my teammate — not that I was coming out and accepting a gay or lesbian person. It was just the fact that he’s my friend and I support him in whatever he does. … I’m proud that he has been able to get this off his chest. Hopefully he can come back and play soccer now. That’s what we all want him to do.”

(Do you think MLS in particular has progressed to the point where an openly gay player can be welcomed into the locker room as one of the guys?) “Yeah, I think so. I think that a lot of other leagues do their stands on certain things, but I think when MLS does it, it’s a big deal and it means like it’s coming from the players. They pick the right players from each team to represent their teams. … I think we’ll be the first league to definitely accept it. I think it will come and go a lot easier than people think. I would hope that Robbie comes back, but if his passion is in what he’s doing now, I completely support him. It’s going to happen, and I think this is a perfect league for it.”

(Are you comfortable talking about your family history, having a gay family member in your sister?) “I mean I don’t really care to elaborate on her, but she’s openly gay and I love her to death. She’s my big sister. She’s my oldest sister. We stay in contact, and she was almost like a second mom to me when I was going up. She’s 18 years older than me, so we did a lot of stuff together and she treated me like a son. We’re still really close, and I love her and I love her daughter to death.”

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