Patrick Gower: We need an openly gay All Black

OPINION: We need a gay All Black.

Well, actually we need an openly gay All Black.

Because you can’t tell me that of the 1170 men who have worn the black jersey since 1884, that not one of them was gay.

Of course there have been gay or bisexual All Blacks. But sadly they have not been able to come out - that has not just been rugby’s fault, it has been society’s fault too.

Thanks to TJ Perenara’s honourable stance against Israel Folau, and the All Blacks' “diversity is strength” advertisement, publicity-wise rugby in this country is looking the most inclusive it ever has right now.

But it has left me asking the question: why have we never had an openly gay All Black?

I got to listen to the All Blacks manager with responsibility for leadership, Gilbert Enoka, speak about the team earlier this year.

He showed us how the All Blacks had a rope with all different colours on it, representing the different ethnicities that come together - a physical example that diversity is strength.

Gilbert Enoka said that he could not wait for the day that a player with Chinese heritage wore the All Blacks jersey.

I didn’t think to ask him about when he thought a gay player would wear the jersey, but I‘m sure from his open attitude that he would be just as keen to see that as well.

But the more you think about it, the bigger the question becomes.

There has never been an openly gay Super rugby player. Why not?

There has never been an openly gay national provincial player from any of the 26 unions. Why not?

I am not aware of an openly gay player in Senior Club rugby. Why not?

There have been openly gay female players in the Black Ferns.

But the fact there are so few openly gay or bisexual male players in the system means one making the All Blacks may sadly be a long way away.

Rugby has come a long way but it needs to go further. It needs to ask itself serious questions about why there are hardly any openly gay male players in the game. As they say, it is 2018.   

A flash diversity advertisement is great but not as great as gay or bisexual players being welcome in every team at every level of the game.

As the new diversity is strength advertisement goes, “All the colours of the rainbow create a united black”.

We talk about the hearts of All Blacks and their love of the Silver Fern all the time.

So to be true to that diversity statement, someone with a rainbow heart needs to wear the silver fern.

Patrick Gower is Newshub's national correspondent