Now that Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas is saying it loud, saying it proud, it’s time to speculate on the aftermath of his coming out! Will the tabloid press in the UK — which loves itself some athletic scandals (but not as much as those Aussies) — go after Thomas like any other sportsman who shags his way through his career? Or Is Thomas still off-limits, forcing the press to put on kid-gloves?
We ask not out of prurient interest (okay, maybe a little) but out of general curiosity as to whether Thomas’s sex life is now fair game and open to gossip reports. Not only do you have to ask whether editors at papers like The Sun will go after him, but whether their readers will even want to know the dirt. This is gay sex, after all. Ewwsville!
Sportswriter Gary Andrews sheds some light on the context of Thomas’ coming out:
For non-rugby fans unfamiliar with Thomas, a bit of context: The Bridgend-born fullback, known a Alfie, has been one of Wales’ most iconic players of the last decade. He captained Wales to a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2005, won 100 caps for his country, and scored 41 international tries, including one for the British & Irish Lions. When Brian O’Driscoll was injured on the Lions tour of New Zealand in 2005, Thomas assumed the captaincy.
Alfie, then, is one of the great players in the modern game, a leader on the pitch capable of rallying his team when under pressure. If you’re looking for a comparative player in football, John Terry immediately springs to mind.
That 35-year-old Thomas has achieved so much in his career and is gay is completely irrelevant. His sexuality has nothing to do with his performances on the pitch. It would, or rather should, be easy to say this whole issue is something of a non-story and there is little point in adding to the column inches.
Yet, it is also worth discussing because it says so much about modern sport, especially the ultra-macho environments of rugby and, yes, football.
Thomas kept his sexuality under wraps so nearly 20 years because he was afraid of the effect it may have had on his career. He was terrified as to what his team mates would think and contemplated suicide. That says plenty about the attitudes, still, of modern sport.
Yet if you look on comments given in the press and comments on articles online, the reaction has been unanimously positive. Rugby fans do not care about Thomas’ sexuality, but applaud him for coming out.
We now know the real reason he split with his wife. But what has he been doing, in the bedroom, since their separation?
When former NBA player John Amaechi, who knows a thing or two about coming out, says Thomas can expect a tough time after coming out, part of that transition will be navigating the press. And we’re as interested to see whether sports gossips will go after Thomas’s private life as eagerly as hetero stars, and whether audiences will even want to know the details.
Thus far in the U.S., out athletes, and other celebs, are generally treated less viciously by the entertainment press. Lance Bass is photographed with “friends”; we’ve yet to hear anything about Amaechi’s sex life; and Clay Aiken is all but neutered. Adam Lambert is the only one near breaking through the glass ceiling of a gay American celeb whose romantic life gets press treatment.
But given Thomas’s huge quads and hard pecs, well, we can’t say we’d be upset knowing some intimate details.