11 May 2015

Homophobia still rife in sport - study

6:15 pm on 11 May 2015

Labour MP Louisa Wall - a former national netball and rugby player - is urging the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) to lead by example and adopt an anti-homophobia policy.

The All Blacks performing the haka.

The country is unified when the All Blacks play, Labour MP Louisa Wall says - so the NZRU should use that standing to help eradicate homophobia. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

An international study has found homophobia is rife at all levels of sporting life in this country, with almost 80 percent of those surveyed witnessing or experiencing abuse.

Louisa Wall.

Labour MP Louisa Wall Photo: LABOUR PARTY

People from six countries took part in the study, which also found that gay men here are the least likely to come out to their team-mates for fear of bullying or discrimination.

The situation was not better for spectators who were open about their sexuality, with about 77 percent saying the stands were not safe for them.

Jeremy Brankin, the captain of New Zealand's only gay rugby team, the New Zealand Falcons, said he was not surprised by the study's findings.

He said action was overdue and needed to target players and spectators.

"Parents watching sport or people in the stands watching the All Blacks - it's not acceptable to yell out homophobic slurs because chances are there's someone, maybe a young person, who's still in the closet and still dealing with their sexuality, who is standing nearby or playing in the field."

Mr Brankin said Australia and Scotland have led the way with anti-homophobic charters, and New Zealand must catch up.

Ms Wall, who is gay, is Labour's associate spokesperson for sport and recreation.

She said it was saddening that only 12 percent of young people said they felt they could come out if they were part of a certain sports team.

"I'm hoping that codes like New Zealand Rugby - and actually league, cricket, basketball, netball - decide to amalgamate as they did in Australia and actually stand up and say, we're not going to tolerate this in our sport."

Ms Wall said the nation was unified when the All Blacks played, so the NZRU should push for that same unity in trying to eradicate homophobia.

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