Rugby star says sorry after homophobic outburst on Twitter

'No malicious intent' in post about gay referee, says lock forward

A Welsh international rugby player was last night forced to apologise after posting a homophobic comment on the social networking website Twitter, just two months after his Wales team-mate Gareth Thomas became the first professional rugby player in Britain to reveal that he was gay.

Lock forward Jonathan Thomas, 27, who has 51 caps for Wales and is set to play in the second row against Scotland in the Six Nations in Cardiff on Saturday, wrote the offensive remarks during an exchange on Twitter yesterday morning with Ian Evans, one of his team-mates at the Welsh club Ospreys.

Evans wrote: "Legs and ass are in bits, can't move." Thomas posted in reply: "U gotta stop hanging round with Nigel Owens!" [a top Welsh referee who came out in 2007]. Evans then made an apology of sorts on behalf of Thomas: "For those ppl [people] who got the wrong end of the stick... it was from our savage training day yesterday, sorry about my friend fellow ppl."

In his autobiography, Half Time, Mr Owens revealed that he had tried to commit suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills as he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality when he was a young man. He has since said he has experienced no discrimination during his time as a rugby referee.

Yesterday, he told The Independent that he knew both players well and could see "nothing malicious" in what Thomas had written. However, he said he would call him "to find out what he was on about".

"It's probably just tongue-in-cheek, something they said without thinking about it," he said. "If it had been other players that I didn't know so well then maybe I might think, 'Hang on a minute', but with those two there's definitely no issues."

Thomas's comments come at a time when homophobia in British sport is under intense scrutiny. Only this week, the FA provoked anger by delaying the screening of a film designed to highlight and discourage homophobic chanting and insults by football supporters.

In December, the former Welsh captain Gareth Thomas revealed he was gay in a newspaper interview. His agent said he did not wish to comment on the incident because he felt it had merely been "good-natured banter" between the two players.

The posts were deleted from Twitter shortly after The Independent contacted the Welsh Rugby Union last night. In a statement, Jonathan Thomas said: "Nigel is a great friend of mine and there is absolutely no way I would say anything to him or about him publicly – or indeed privately – which I thought he would find personally offensive. There is no malicious intent in this message whatsoever. This was some childish banter between friends and I did not think for a moment that there may be other people out there reading it and/or taking it in the wrong way.

"I made a very silly comment to something else that was written, but nevertheless, I would like to apologise to anyone who is or was offended by it. I have spoken to Nigel this afternoon and, as I knew at the time of writing, he is not offended and he remains a very good friend. I have now removed the offending comment and will be much more conscious of distinguishing between private jokes and what can be said in a public forum in future."

Gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "Homophobic tweets are just as unacceptable as similar outbursts on blogs and message boards. This is not what we would expect from players such as Jonathan Thomas. These remarks are particularly disappointing as they come just weeks after Jonathan's former international team-mate Gareth Thomas came out to such public acclaim and admiration.

"Many of us expected and hoped that this was a turning point and that Welsh rugby could kiss goodbye to homophobia. Sadly, Jonathan's proved us wrong."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee