In 2009, Gareth Thomas, who then played for the Wales international team, became the first openly gay rugby union player.
Though he’s garnered nothing but respect and support from his teammates and most fans, discrimination still exists throughout the world. On November 18, Thomas revealed he is no exception.
In a selfie video posted to Twitter, the former professional rugby player—noticeably scratched and bruised around the face—revealed he had been the victim of a “hate crime” at Cardiff City Center in the UK.
Watch his video here:
Thanking police and local fans, Thomas spoke of his experience:
“This morning I’ve decided to make what I hope will be a positive video. Last night I was the victim in my home city of a hate crime for my sexuality.”
Thanks for doing this, Gareth. Can’t have been at all easy.
Out sportsmen carry such a lot of weight, and it’s appreciated by those of us who reap the benefits of your courage.
— Max 🏳️🌈 (@SpillerOfTea) November 18, 2018
Hear, hear! And this is why many and in particular young people are scared to come out. There’s still a long way to go for LGBQT+ people, even in liberal western societies.
— Irina (@Wer_ko_der_ko) November 18, 2018
Thomas—lovingly called “Alfie” by former opponents and fans alike—hopes his experience will be a healing one for the people of his hometown:
“Why I want it to be positive [is] because I want to say thank you to the police who were involved, who were very helpful and allowed me to do restorative justice with the people who did this because I thought they could learn more that way than any other way.”
— The Royal Welsh (@TheRoyalWelsh) November 18, 2018
Alfie you’ve been a warrior and example all your life. And you continue to do so. And like all good leaders there’s thousands standing beside you.
— steve walker (@stevewalk) November 19, 2018
If nothing else, Thomas is someone who loves Cardiff.
“And also to the people of Cardiff who supported me and helped me, because there are a lot of people out there who want to hurt us but unfortunately for them, there are a lot more that want to help us heal. So this, I hope, will be a positive message.”
If Gareth Thomas defended himself to his full capability that lad would be in a serious condition in hospital and Gareth would be facing a prison sentence through absolutely no fault of his own.
— Peter Taylor (@pp_taylor) November 18, 2018
Part of me ( not the sensible part) thinks you should have beaten them up… Hateful evil people
— Claire Hill#FBPE #OFOC # People’s Vote (@ClaireH30486961) November 21, 2018
South Wales Police later issued a statement confirming a 16-year-old boy had been apprehended for the assault, but that Thomas had requested law enforcement treat the arrest as a learning experience:
“We can confirm a local 16-year-old boy was dealt with by way of restorative justice following the incident…Restorative justice is about putting victim needs at the centre of the criminal justice system, finding positive solutions to crime and encouraging young people to be accountable for the consequences of their actions.”
— Welsh Assembly Rugby (@AssemblyRugby) November 18, 2018
Twitter was inspired by Thomas’ message.
Gareth Thomas gets the shit kicked out of him by homophobic arseholes and his response is to forgive them and try to understand what drove them to act in such a horrific manner. It’s the best example of Christianity from somebody that Christianity openly rejects
— Nick Toovey (@tooves) November 18, 2018
#GarethThomas is 16st and 6 foot 3. Some twat has a crack at him in a homophobic assault. Pretty sure Gareth could have ended him. How much restraint & composure must that have taken to then educate? Absolute legend.
— Nikki (@Juju_Bush) November 18, 2018
— Daniel McTaggart (@MctaggartDaniel) November 18, 2018
”You should be allowed to get on with your life and not live in fear.”
Rugby referee @Nigelrefowens says there’s ‘still a long way to go’ to prevent hate crimes after Gareth Thomas was assaulted because of his sexuality.
— ITV Wales News (@ITVWales) November 19, 2018
Now, in support of their former colleague, French rugby chief Serge Simon announced that the team would be wearing rainbow laces in support of Thomas:
“All of French Rugby is with you regarding the homophobic [attack] you’ve been victim of. To show our support, the French rugby players will wear rainbow laces during the France – Fiji game on Saturday night. We’re all in with you in this matter.”
All of French Rugby is with you regarding the homophobic molestation you’ve been victim of.
To show our support, the French rugby players will wear a rainbow shoe lace during the France – Fidji game on Saturday night.
We’re all in with you in this matter.
— Serge Simon (@DrSergeSIMON) November 20, 2018
Fans were right there with the team in their decision!
What a fantastic gesture by Serge Simon and the French team – formidable certainement – bravo. I suspect this tremendous support will put a rugby ball sized lump in Alfie’s throat. Superb
— Andrew Hopper (@AndrewH25759232) November 20, 2018
France, we love you! Always our best friends and ennemies, we stand side by side 🇫🇷🏴
— Alan (@CityLondonAlan) November 20, 2018
This made me cry. Thank you so much for this show of solidarity with Alfie. He is much loved.
— Mrs K 🏴 (@one_mrs_k) November 20, 2018
This is RUGBY FAMILY! what a gesture….looking after one of our much loved Welsh legends! More of this is needed in today's crazy world. Let's look out for one another!❤RESPECT🏉
— marky G #45 (@hardcoreVR46fan) November 21, 2018
Other teams followed suit, showing the world that such homophobic violence should be unacceptable to rugby fans everywhere!
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) November 23, 2018
🌈 We've filled our home ground @RicohArena with rainbow colours in support of @premrugby's @StonewallUK campaign and @WelshRugbyUnion legend @gareththomas14 💪
#RainbowLaces #AcceptanceWithoutException🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/73PBkcfnXL
— Wasps Rugby (@WaspsRugby) November 21, 2018
Wales will wear rainbow laces this weekend to show support to former captain Gareth Thomas who was the victim of a homophobic attack in Cardiff.
— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) November 22, 2018
The world stands with you, Mr. Thomas!
Thank you for continuing to inspire acceptance and love, even in the face of bigotry and hate.