By Shawna Healey
Former Wales captain and the first openly gay rugby player, Gareth Thomas, was the victim of a homophobic attack in Cardiff last weekend.
Thomas released a video on Twitter talking about the attack and showing his facial bruises. He said: “Last night I was the victim, in my home city, of a hate crime for my sexuality.”
Thomas goes on to thank Cardiff police, who he describes as “very helpful”. He also thanks for police for letting him go through restorative justice processes, adding that the perpetrators “could learn more that way”.
— Gareth Thomas (@gareththomas14) November 18, 2018
Thomas has long been an outspoken member of the LGBT community, where he came out as gay in 2009, and speaks publicly on LGBT rights and bullying. Thomas joined MP Damian Collins, the Chairman of the Commons Culture and Sport Committee, last June, to draft a bill to amend the Football Offences Act of 1992 to explicitly outlaw homophobic abuse at matches. As of current, the act only covers banning of “indecent or racialist” chanting.
Since the incident, the Wales team have announced that they will wear rainbow coloured laces in support of Thomas during their upcoming match against South Africa on Saturday. France has also announced that their team will be wearing rainbow laces during their match against Fiji in support of the former player, as well as New Zealand.
South Wales police has said that a 16-year-old has admitted attacking Thomas and apologised.
MP for Cardiff Central, Jo Stevens tweeted Thomas saying: “I’m so sorry that you were subjected to such behaviour, Gareth. Wishing you a full recovery and hope to see you soon.”
Neville Southall, the Welsh former international footballer, also tweeted to in support of Thomas, saying: “Sorry it happened mate, but there are thousands who support you. Love that you concentrate on the positives. Keep being a role model. Top guy.”
The rainbow laces campaign created by Stonewall, one of the UK’s leading LGBT charities, was launched in 2013. The movement began because Stonewall was aiming to reduce and eradicate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in sport. It comes after research found that nearly three quarters of football fans, at 73%, heard homophobic comments in sports games in the last five years.
Research also found that a quarter of 18-24-year olds would be embarrassed if their favourite player came out.
Rainbow Laces week start on Saturday, with the Welsh team playing South Africa, leading to the 3rd of December.
Wear Your Rainbow Laces Day is next Thursday, and you can get your laces from Stonewall from just £2.99 on their website here. You can also buy other accessories to support the charity on the website such as mugs, cuff links and even bandanas for dogs.