South African rugby’s first openly gay player

On a trip to the states recently, it struck me that Cape Town isn’t nearly as liberal as it likes to pretend it is.  Sure the old timers who hail from Cape Town liked to pretend they were either all part of the struggle secretly, or voted Progressive with some subversive Rodriguez tapes in their stereos, or did whatever they needed to while maintaining the status quo back in the bad old days.  Cape Townians like to pretend we’re very inclusive and embrace diversity and all that. So how come there are no openly gay players in the Western Province and Stormers set up?  Not to mention South African rugby as a whole.

So we have a liberal constitution, but I call bulls–t on our supposed liberality until we have an openly gay rugby player.  I mean, come on, it’s not like out of that squad of thirty or so, there couldn’t be one player who stares a moment longer than needed at Pierre Spies’s shorts or Wynand Oliver’s latest avant-garde hairdo.  There’s a lot of short shorts wearing and doing weights while staring into the mirror in the rugby community is all I am saying…

Actually, that’s not all I am saying.  Let’s face it, SA rugby has a pretty despicable legacy that many of us are trying to overturn.  There’s a perception out there that the master plan of apartheid was conceived during some  rugby team bonding breakaway training camp with Henrik Verwoed and few other tight forwards.  Just another example of bad ideas conceived by front rowers after a few beers.  Back in the day, that conception of SA rugby probably wasn’t far off from the truth, but now most rugby fans are very much “with it” and are a part of the new SA.  It’s time to radically change the image of SA rugby.

So how about extending that inclusiveness to the gay community?  I mean think of the marketing opportunities.  Those shower gel and anti-dandruff ads the Proteas do are pretty much 98% of the way there.  I am sure SA rugby could take it across the finish line.

Besides… could you imagine how it would freak some of the northern players the f–k out to have to scrum against a Stormers pack consisting of a few bad boys?  Now that would be intimidating…

So Big Daddy Rugby is sending out a call out to South Africa’s first openly gay player.  Show yourself dude… there’s a lot of homophobic bullying that you could help us put an end to.

Ben Cohen fights the good fight against homophobia

Well done Ben Cohen. I always thought that for the physique and power that Ben Cohen had as a player he never quite dominated test rugby as much as he could have.  But he has found a worthy cause post retirement.  As a straight married man, he has taken a stand against homophobia and bullying in sport.   Good on ya, Ben. You’ve even made the New York Times with this ballsy stand that can be pretty unpopular in a so-called “macho” sport.

“in a world where no active American athletes in a major male team sport has declared his homosexuality, it remains rare for athletes to chime in on the issue of gay rights. Recent exceptions, beyond Avery, include Grant Hill and Jared Dudley of the Phoenix Suns, who recorded a public-service announcement decrying gay slurs in sports.

Cohen and Taylor are going much further.

Cohen, 32, just retired from a rugby career that included a World Cup title for England in 2003 and more than a decade with the Northampton Saints. Despite being married with 3 ½-year-old twin daughters, he has long had a huge following among gay fans.”

Rugby has a lot of ugly skeletons in this closet – especially in South Africa and we’ve done precious little to rectify this situation, except whinge about our “rights’ and “symbols”. The Varsity Cup in South Africa is a noteworthy exception taking a stand against Violence Against Women.  Other than that, it is just the usual cringe worthy stuff – instead of tackling the real problems in our society, we get Steve Hofmeyer bleating about folk rights and Victor Matfield tackling porn on DSTV.

Good grief Springboks, take a look up north where players are putting their celebrity to actual good use and learn a lesson.  This country could use it, and it might make the Springbok emblem a little more acceptable to a larger base.