Gay rights advocates in New Zealand have called for a homosexual All Blacks player to openly declare his sexuality.
Broadcaster Steve Gray told the Sunday Star-Times that he was aware there had been several gay All Blacks and that it was time for one to stand up and be counted.
The openly-gay TV presenter even said he had slept with one player, although none from the team have ever come out in the country where rugby is a national passion.
“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.
His comments follow the appearance of English football star Matt Jarvis on the cover of British gay magazine Attitude.
Jarvis, who is married and straight, said it was time gay footballers felt comfortable enough to step forward and that they would receive support from within the football community.
Tony Simpson, chairman of the gay rights group Rainbow Wellington, said he believed that if a homosexual All Black came out he was sure the majority of New Zealanders would back him.
“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,” he said.
Former All Blacks centre Craig Innes joined the call for a gay All Black to step forward, saying it would be good for the young gay community to have a rugby role model to look up to.
“I’d admire someone who had the guts to do something like that,” 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.”
Roberts, an Australian Rugby League international, came out in 1995.