Retired New Zealand Rugby player Campbell Johnstone has made history as the first player to come out as gay while representing the prestigious All Blacks rugby team.
Johnstone, a prop, who was the 1,056th All Black and played three test matches for the All Blacks in 2005 and had over 70 games for southern New Zealand region Canterbury and 38 for the Crusaders, came out publicly in a television interview in New Zealand.
In the interview with Hilary Barry on TVNZ magazine show Seven Sharp, Johnstone expressed his regret for not coming out sooner and spoke about the stigma and pressure of “not fitting the mould” that held him back.
“We had a phrase in rugby saying if you could look yourself in the mirror and be honest with yourself then you’ve done enough,” Johnstone explained to Seven Sharp.
“Here I was looking in the mirror, haven’t been honest with my teammates; and that puts a lot of pressure on and just builds up on you.”
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Johnstone, generally a private man, said it was vital for him to make it public now to help others.
“If I can be the first All Black that comes out as gay and take away the pressure and the stigma surrounding the whole issue then it can actually help other people. Then the public will know that there is one in amongst the All Blacks,” he said.
“To be able to do that could possibly be one of the final pieces in the puzzle for New Zealand sport…it could be a very vital piece that just gives everyone closure.
“If I open up that door and magically make that closet disappear, then we’re going to help a lot of people.”
This announcement has been met with support from the international rugby community, who are proud of Johnstone for his bravery and are using his story to break down barriers and promote inclusivity in sports.
New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson said Johnstone’s strength and visibility “will pave the way for others”.
“Rugby is a sport that is welcoming to everyone and a place where people should feel safe to be who they are,” he said.
Robinson said NZ Rugby knows there are people who have not always been comfortable to be who they are in rugby.
“We want to be clear, no matter who you love, rugby has your back.”
Arohanui Campbell Johnstone All Black #1056 – your strength and visibility will pave the way for others in sport here in Aotearoa and around the world 🖤🏉🌈 pic.twitter.com/LcEQsp2e1y
— New Zealand Rugby (@NZRugby) January 30, 2023
New Zealand Sports Minister and openly gay MP Grant Robertson shared his support for Johnstone on Instagram, calling it “a big moment”.
“A big moment. And a huge thanks to Campbell Johnstone for blazing this trail,” Robertson wrote.
“It’s important to create an inclusive environment in sport at all levels, and that starts at the top. In the Black Ferns we have had role models for the Rainbow community for some time. And now with the All Blacks another barrier has been broken. I hope it inspires future generations to be open, happy and comfortable. There is still a long way to go, but feels a very significant step. And from one prop to another, ngā mihi Campbell!”
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This landmark moment in rugby history is a step forward for the LGBTQ+ community and will inspire others in sports and beyond to be true to themselves and live openly and authentically.
Campbell Johnstone will forever be a trailblazer and an inspiration to many.
See the full interview below from the Seven Sharp Facebook page
Last Updated on Jan 30, 2023