Rugby league superstar Greg Inglis says he’d support any gay NRL player who came out and believes it would be an enormous burden removed for someone who did.
Inglis on Wednesday joined a cast of high-profile athletes and administrators from Australia’s four football codes and cricket in speaking out against homophobia in sport.
“If individuals want to come out and promote that they’re gay or they’re not, I’m all for it,” Inglis said.
“I’m a big believer, a firm believer, in respecting what others are and who they are.
“The environment that I grew up in and the teams I’ve been involved in have always embraced that and that’s just the way the culture is.”
Ian Roberts, almost 20 years ago, has been the only Australian professional rugby player to publicly reveal he was gay and NRL boss Dave Smith on Wednesday applauded the former Manly, NSW State of Origin and Australian Test star for his courage.
“When you look back at the history of the game, the names that stand out are the one who have done something to change the fabric of the game,” Smith said.
“People like Ian Roberts, who, in 1995, took the brave step of one of the toughest rugby league players in the game to declare that he was gay.
If individuals want to come out and promote that they’re gay or they’re not, I’m all for it
“The great thing was not that Ian was brave enough to make that declaration, but that it was so sensitively received by his peers in the rugby league community.”
Inglis has no doubts modern-day gay players would be similarly embraced in the NRL.
“Especially in the sporting environment we’re in now and the culture that Australia is in the sporting world, I think it’s just each to their own,” he said.
“Whoever’s come out and said they’re gay, just move on. They’re here to have fun and sport is a great opportunity for that.
“If they’re there, then they’re there. I think when they come out, they’ll probably create of lot of relief off their shoulders, a lot of weight off their shoulders.”
Inglis also endorsed the stance of the sporting CEOs who challenged players to stop using loose phrases in the locker-room like: “Don’t do that, it’s gay.”
“If you stamp that out, then it will probably help players that come out a bit more,” Inglis said.
“In saying that, you never know until they actually come out and say it.
“I’m definitely happy to put my hand up and be one of the leaders behind this great initiative.”