Gareth Thomas issues apology for joking about rugby player having his crotch grabbed

Joe Marler deliberately grabbed and fondled the genitals of Alun Wyn Jones during a rugby match broadcast on live TV.

A split screen images of a burly bald man with an earpiece and a rugby match where one man is grabbing the crotch of a player on the opposing team

Rugby legend Gareth Thomas has issued a public apology for a joke which many felt was in poor taste considering the circumstances.

The event in question happened when team England player Joe Marler grabbed and fondled the groin of the Welsh team captain, Alun Wyn Jones. The incident was broadcast on television and Wyn Jones was understandably upset to have his private parts grabbed without his consent. Jones said that while he was stunned, he didn’t retaliate because he did not want to get into trouble.

Back in the studio, sports analysts including Thomas were discussing the incident before Gareth quipped, “It would never have happened in my day and I’m really upset about that – because if it had I would have never retired.”

Openly gay Thomas has long been considered a role model for the LGBT+ community so some felt his making light of the offence was problematic.

In response to the backlash, Gareth Thomas shared an apology on social media –

“To the very small minority of people who were offended by my comment yesterday I apologise. I tried to find humour in a situation-that doesn’t mean I condone it, it means I wanted it to not be an issue. So don’t change the narrative to justify how you feel. Be kind.”

While some dismissed the need for an apology, others shared how it was a missed opportunity for a learning experience.

Back to the players involved in the incident – Wyn Jones has asked World Rugby to look into the incident saying, “There’s a lot of footage that has been shown. It seems like a lot of supporters saw what happened. It’s very frustrating that we talk a lot about TMOs (television match officials) and footage reviews, yet there doesn’t seem to be a lot of it happening.”

Gareth Thomas has been praised for his efforts to tackle stigma and discrimination around HIV. Before an in-conversation event organised by GCN and HIV Ireland for World AIDS Day last year, Stephen O’Hare, Executive Director of HIV Ireland shared, “Gareth is one of only a handful of elite athletes in the world to speak willingly and honestly about his own sexuality and the challenges of living with HIV.

“Though he himself finds it difficult to attach the label ‘activist,’ his quiet dignity and determination to tell his story places him at the forefront of efforts to tackle stigma and discrimination around HIV. We are grateful to Gareth for using his profile to shine a very bright light on the challenges often faced by people in our community and how, by increasing public awareness and support, such challenges can be overcome.”

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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