Gay All Black wanted - to help tackle bigotry

Last updated 12:49 06/01/2013

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Gay advocates believe it is time for a homosexual All Black, with one saying most Kiwis would support him.

Tony Simpson, the chairman of gay rights group Rainbow Wellington, made the comment after hearing English football star Matt Jarvis featured on the cover of the UK’s best-selling gay magazine Attitude.

Jarvis, who is married and straight and appeared in the magazine in an effort to fight homophobia, said it was time a gay footballer felt comfortable enough to come out.

"I'm sure there are many footballers who are gay, but when they decide to actually come out and say it is a different story. It's one that I'm sure they've thought about many times. But it's a hard thing for them to do."

No All Black has openly stated he is gay.

Simpson says the support is there for an All Black, past or present, to out himself and act as a role model to fight bigotry.

"If an All Black was to come out I think most people would just say ‘well what does that have to do with the way he plays rugby?'

"Some people will be hostile - some have never reconciled themselves to decriminalisation of homosexuality and try to debate it every time it comes up - but by and large most people have gotten over it."

Former All Blacks centre Craig Innes has joined the call for someone to do so. He said for the young gay community it would be huge having a rugby role model to look up to.

"I'd admire someone who had the guts to do something like that," he said.

Gay media personality Steve Gray said New Zealand's sports culture needed an All Black to stand up and be counted.

Gray claimed there were several gay All Blacks over the years, including one he'd slept with.

"I can definitely say there are gay All Blacks because I have slept with one," Gray said.

"Everyone always asks what his name was, but I can't remember. I don't know who the All Blacks are. But at the time I checked with a friend and it was totally true."

He said a gay All Black would not be comfortable to publicly out himself, which he understood.

"If you've been in any sporting situation they are incredibly homophobic," he said.

"I wouldn't think one would come out at the time [of playing]."

Innes said the sporting community would be tolerant.

"If someone wanted to come out I'm sure they would get good backing," he said.

"It would obviously take a very brave person to do it but if you look at Ian Roberts, who is probably the toughest, meanest rugby league player to ever play the game, he came out a few years ago and people hardly batted an eyelid."

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In December 2009, Welsh international Gareth Thomas announced he was gay, saying: "I don't want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player, first and foremost I am a man."

It made him the first openly gay professional rugby union player.

In 1990 Justin Fashanu, who played football for Norwich, Nottingham Forest and Hearts, suffered extended abuse after coming out. He killed himself eight years later.

- Sunday Star Times

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