As the nation prepares to receive their marriage equality plebiscite votes in the mail later this week, one major Australian sporting body has come out to openly support the ‘Yes’ campaign, and it’s a big, huge, historic deal that we have one person to thank for.
“There is a place for everyone in rugby league,” NRL Chief executive Todd Greenberg confirmed in a statement on Friday. “We need to treat everyone equally both on and off the field and that’s why we will publicly support the same-sex marriage proposal.”
The NRL is only the second Australian sporting body to openly state its support of equality, following the AFL in 2014.
Incredibly, Greenberg's on-the-record show of support for the plebiscite may never have come about if former NRL great Ian Roberts - who was the league's first openly gay player - hadn't implored the sport he loves so much to be on the right side of history.
"Either everyone's equal or they're not, and that's what the NRL is saying. They're just being fair," Roberts tells Mamamia on Monday.
"It's about being part of the group and being part of the tribe, and that's the power sport has. Because when you depend on each other on the field, you're all equal. It doesn't matter what your sexuality is."
Having played professionally for 12 years, Roberts says that growing up in a sport that didn't support his sexuality played havoc with his mind for years.
"I wanted to stop playing when I was 18... I knew I was gay and I just didn't see it working at all I didn't see any sort of flexibility in leading a full life," he says. "If everything is sending you signals that that kind of behaviour is not welcome and is to be made fun of, it's very hard to ignore that and to block that out."
Listen: Mamamia's message to Prime Minister Turnbull on the marriage plebiscite. Post continues...