The Welsh national rugby team will show its support for gay-bashed former captain Gareth Thomas by wearing rainbow laces in this weekend’s match against South Africa.
Thomas, the world’s first openly gay international rugby player, was attacked by a teenager in a homophobic hate crime in Cardiff last Saturday.
The 44-year-old Welshman chose not to press charges and accepted an apology from the 16-year-old in an act of restorative justice.
On Thursday, The Welsh Rugby Union announced on Twitter: “Wales & Wales Women will again support @StonewallCymru #RainbowLacesDay campaign & show their support to former captain @gareththomas14 by wearing #RainbowLaces in their fixtures this weekend.”
The annual Rainbow Laces campaign was launched in 2013 by UK LGBTQ rights group Stonewall and sees players and fans wearing rainbow laces to “play their part in ensuring LGBT people feel included in sport.”
“Many of our national game’s core values of respect, teamwork and sportsmanship resonate with what is at the heart of this important campaign and we remain committed to ensuring that rugby provides an inclusive and welcoming environment for all at every level of the game,” said a WRU spokesperson.
The French national team have also confirmed that they will wear rainbow laces in their match against Fiji on Saturday in support of Thomas, who played in France for Toulouse from 2004 to 2007.
“He (Gareth Thomas) attracted the attention of every rugby country with the abuse he suffered,” France coach Jacques Brunel said on Thursday, reported CNN. “I think rugby must support him. We’re going to show our total disapproval of this behaviour. We want to support Gareth Thomas wholeheartedly.”
Kirsty Clarke, Stonewall’s Director of Sport, said: “What happened to Gareth Thomas last weekend is a painful reminder of just how much work there is still to be done before LGBT people feel free to be themselves, wherever they are.”
Thomas – a former British Lions captain and the most capped Welsh rugby player in history – came out as gay in December 2009. He announced his retirement from rugby in late 2011.