Campbell Johnstone makes rugby history as first All Black to come out as gay

The former New Zealand rugby star hopes his story will help other players.

Photo of former All Black rugby player Campbell Johnstone wearing a black jersey, he came out as gay.
Image: Twitter @GBMcfatter

Former professional rugby player, Campbell Johnstone, has made history by becoming the first All Black to come out as gay, doing so on New Zealand’s Seven Sharp television programme on Monday, January 30.

When talking about his decision to come out now, the 43-year-old shared that he wanted to help take the pressure and stigma off of other players.

The All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby squad and arguably one of the most successful sports teams in history, first selected Johnstone in 2005, and he went on to win a total of three caps. At club level, he made 62 appearances for Canterbury and 38 for the Crusaders over several years.

He confessed that during the early stages of his career, he struggled with an internal conflict between his sexuality and what he thought an All Black was supposed to represent. He shared that he often felt like he was living a double life, saying, “My view of an All Black was manly, strong, possibly with a wife and kids…[so] I pushed that side of me down deeper and deeper”.

Over time, he felt comfortable sharing his queer identity with his family and close friends. He said, “It was pretty much like telling them I just ran out of milk, one of them was like, yeah it’s about time”.

Johnstone says that only telling close friends about his sexuality was the right decision at the time, but he’s choosing to publicly come out now because he knows he can help other players by removing some of the stigma and pressure they may feel.


Former New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson thanked Johnstone for creating a more inclusive environment, saying “…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.”

The All Blacks team similarly shared a message of support for Johnstone, stating that they admire him for “having the courage to share his story and helping create a more inclusive game”.


New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson also praised Campbell Johnstone for his strength and visibility after coming out as gay. He shared, “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.

“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.”


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