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First openly gay rugby player convinces league to publicly support same-sex marriage

First openly gay rugby player convinces league to publicly support same-sex marriage

Ian Roberts

The first openly gay rugby league footballer Ian Roberts successfully urged the league to publicly support same-sex marriage in Australia.

After a long professional career, Roberts came out as gay in 1995 – a world first for the sport.

In the midst of an upcoming same-sex marriage public vote, he wrote to the National Rugby League chief executive Todd Greenberg.

In the email, he urged the code to throw their support behind the ‘yes’ campaign for marriage equality.

And on Friday (8 September), he received a call from Greenberg to confirm the support.

Roberts said: ‘I’ve never felt so proud about our game. This will save lives,’ reports the Daily Telegraph.

‘This is a moment in time that will be remembered forever,’ he added.

In 2015, the NRL publicly came out in support of marriage equality, but this latest move is for the ‘yes’ campaign.

Ian Roberts: ‘I feel so proud for the game’

Ian Roberts wrote the letter after four close friends committed suicide for struggling with their sexuality. But one got to him in particular – the death of 13-year-old Tyrone Unsworth, a gay teen bullied so horrifically at school, he took his own life.

Roberts said: ‘His passing will not be in vain.

‘The poor kid was bullied at school for being gay. That’s what triggered me into doing this,’ he said.

In 2015, the NRL signed a corporate-led campaign in support of marriage equality in Australia.

Roberts believes rugby league has made leaps and bounds since he came out more than 20 years ago.

He said: ‘Rugby league has been so strong in breaking down barriers and raising awareness about many issues, whether it’s to do with indigenous Australians or domestic violence against women.

‘It’s about saving lives because that’s the power our game has.

‘I feel so proud for the game. They’ve said its ok now.

‘It’s a huge thing and I can’t thank the NRL enough,’ he said.