Campbell Johnstone becomes first All Blacks player to come out as gay
Campbell Johnstone, the former New Zealand prop who played three tests including two against the British and Irish Lions in 2005, has become the first All Blacks rugby player to come out as gay.
Johnstone made the announcement on TVNZ network's One News channel on Monday, saying he had been "living a lie" and leading "a double life" before acknowledging his sexuality.
"If I can be the first All Black that comes out as gay and take away the pressure, I guess, the stigma surrounding that whole issue then it can actually help other people and then the public will know that there is one in amongst the All Blacks," said Johnstone, who also played 38 Super Rugby matches for the Christchurch-based Crusaders.
"It could possibly be one of the final pieces in the public puzzle for New Zealand sports-wise and it could be a very vital piece that just gives everyone closure."
He added: "If I open up that door and magically make that closet disappear, then we're going to help a lot of people.
"I pushed that side of me down deeper and deeper. I went to some interesting places."
New Zealand Rugby quickly supported Johnstone's decision to come out as gay, praising him for "having the courage to share his story and helping create a more inclusive game."
NZR chief executive 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. We want to be clear, no matter who you love rugby has your back," he said in a statement.
New Zealand Sports Minister and former deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, who is gay, said Johnstone's announcement was a "big moment" and thanked him for "blazing this trail."
"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 this feels a very significant step," he said on Instagram.
The All Blacks praised his decision on Twitter, mentioning his national team player number 1056.
"Much love and support for All Black #1056 Campbell Johnstone for having the courage to share his story and helping create a more inclusive game," it said.