Campbell Johnstone, a former rugby player in New Zealand who played for the national All Blacks team, has come out publicly as gay. Now his story is being shared around the world.
“If I can be the first All Black that comes out as gay and take away the pressure and the stigma surrounding that whole issue, then it can actually help other people,” he said on the Seven Sharp TV program earlier today.
Johnstone played professional rugby for a number of years and appeared in three matches in 2005 for the All Blacks, the most popular and recognizable team across sports in New Zealand.
The story has been picked up around the world, including the United States and Europe, something Johnstone said he didn’t expect.
“I thought it would reach into the New Zealand public and possibly Australia,” he told Stuff. “Not in my wildest imagination I thought it would be so far-reaching. It’s a real sign of how powerful the All Black and New Zealand brand is around the world,” he said.
Men’s rugby has seen various stars come out publicly as gay over the years. Ian Roberts was one of the first active professional athletes in the world to come out when he did so in Australian rugby in 1995. Gareth Thomas of Wales came out over a decade ago in British rugby.
Over a dozen out women competed in rugby at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, including at least four from New Zealand.
Congratulations to Johnstone for this monumental personal step, and one that will resonate throughout his sport and across the country of New Zealand.