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Campbell Johnson, Former All Blacks Pro-Rugby Player, Comes Out As Gay

Campbell Johnson, Former All Blacks Pro-Rugby Player, Comes Out As Gay

Images of Campbell Johnston playing rugby and another of him retired

Campbell Johnstone is the first member of the famed New Zealand rugby team to come out.

A former member of the famed New Zealand national rugby team has come out as gay.

Campbell Johnson, All Black number 1056, came out during an interview with New Zealand television TVNZ’s Seven Sharp earlier today, saying he had been “living a lie” and “leading a double life” during his playing days. He told presenter Hilary Barry he was coming out now to help other gay athletes struggling in the closet.

“If I can be the first All Black that comes out as gay and take away the pressure and stigma surrounding the issue it can actually help other people,” the 43-year-old said on Monday. “Then the public will know that there is one in amongst the All Blacks and it could be one of the final pieces in the puzzle sports-wise that gives everyone closure.”

Johnstone said he didn’t come out publicly during his playing days because he never felt comfortable with his sexual identity as it intersected with his lifelong dream of being an All Black.

“My view of an All Black was manly, strong, possibly with a wife and kids,” he said.

He also had more personal reasons.

“The private part of me wanted to keep that private.”

While he remained in the closet publicly, Johnstone revealed he came out to family, close friends, and some teammates “a long time ago.”

It turned out to be a mundane experience.

“It was pretty much like telling them I just ran out of milk, one of them was like ‘yeah it’s about time,’” he recalled of the experience, adding with a laugh that “there was no big party or anything.”

Johnstone’s announcement was met with support on social media.

His former team offered “much love” to their alum.

"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," the team's official Twitter account posted.

New Zealand Rugby also heralded the announcement.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the group's CEO, Mark Robinson said, "On behalf of the New Zealand rugby community and as a former teammate, I want to acknowledge and support Campbell for sharing his authentic story. Your strength and visibility will pave the way for others in our game."

He added, "We know that 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."

The All Blacks are New Zealand’s national rugby team for international competition. They are one of the most dominant teams in the history of international rugby, and the first team to win the Rugby World Cup three times. Their uniforms are all black with a white fern, and the team performs a traditional haka or Māori challenge or posture dance before every match.

A test match is a game between two senior-level international teams and is known as a cap. A player is capped the first time they play in a test match. Games consist of two teams of 15 players each on a large oval grass field with a ball resembling an oversized American football. The ball can be passed backward but not forward. Points can be scored by a player crossing the goal line and grounding the ball or by various forms of kicks through an upright goal.

The game is perhaps best known for scrums that restart play. Players from the opposing teams push against each other in a large huddle and the ball is inserted into the huddle as players attempt to use their feet to gain possession of the ball while pushing against their opponents.

The six-foot, 243-pound Johnstone played the position of prop on the first line in the scrum. He played in his first official test match in 2005 and was the 1,056th All Black player to be capped. The first All Black player to be capped was James Allan in 1884. Johnstone retired from the sport in 2012.

Johnstone said he’s prepared for the media spotlight that will shine on him following this announcement. He also lamented the need for him to publicly come out at all.

“I’m somewhat, maybe a little bit sad that we are actually having to do this,” Johnstone said. “But if I open up their door and kind of magically make that closet disappear, then we’re going to help a lot of people.”

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