Former All Black Campbell Johnstone comes out publicly as gay

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Campbell Johnstone playing for Canterbury in 2007.  (Photo by Sandra Mu/Getty Images)
Campbell Johnstone playing for Canterbury in 2007. (Photo by Sandra Mu/Getty Images)

Former All Black player Campbell Johnstone publicly came out as gay on New Zealand television on Monday in a first for the national rugby team.

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The 43-year-old prop, who played three Tests in 2005, had already told his family and close friends before coming out on the TVNZ network's One News channel.

"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," Johnstone said in an interview.

"Then the public will know that there is one in amongst the All Blacks," he added.

"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."

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.

Johnstone played Fiji in his debut game with the All Blacks in 2005 and played two matches against the Lions in the same year.

"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," said New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson.

"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," he said in a statement.

Besides his All Blacks appearances, Johnstone also played 62 games for Canterbury and 38 for the Crusaders. He moved to French club Biarritz in 2008.

Johnstone said he struggled with keeping his sexuality secret when playing.

"It slowly starts to affect you, you know, it is hard living a double life or living a lie," he said.

"We have a phrase in rugby saying after a game if you can look yourself in the mirror and be honest with yourself then you know you have done enough," Johnstone said.

"And here I was looking in the mirror, had not been honest with my teammates, you know, and that puts a lot of pressure, and it builds up on you."

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