Rugby player Gareth Thomas is one of his Wales’ most prominent athletes in his field. Known for his tough exterior, Thomas most notably led the British Lions to a Grand Slam title in 2005, the team’s first since 1978. He also made international headlines when he came out in 2009, making him the only openly gay professional athlete currently on a major team sport.
But as Sports Illustrated senior writer Gary Smith writes in the May 3 issue, under the exterior of tattoos, bruises and a mouth of missing teeth was a tormented man struggling with his identity. Now, months after coming out, Thomas and Smith both ask, when will the U.S. have its turn at a gay athlete?
“The e-mails and letters and Twitter I get tells me there is so much confusion on this issue, and so many gay kids who love sports but get pushed away from it,” Thomas says in the article. “A lot of the notes are from America. I love the United States...but why wouldn’t the people who run your sports and who sponsor them make a public announcement that they welcome gay people and will support them? Because even if they feel that’s bringing too much attention to something that should be a private matter, at this point that’s what’s needed.”