A bizarre moment occurred in Saturday’s Six Nations rugby match between England and Wales when English player Joe Marler grabbed the crotch of Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones. It got a bit more bizarre when openly gay former player Gareth Thomas made light of the incident and then later apologized.
The grab occurred during the live broadcast of the match during a first-half melee. Marler reached down and grabbed Jones’ crotch and did a tug. Jones was stunned but said he did not retaliate because he did not want to get punished.
The Welsh captain is demanding punishment for Marler for violating rules of conduct. “Hopefully World Rugby have a look at it. Joe’s a good bloke, lots of things happen on a rugby field,” Jones said.
Marler could actually face a ban for his actions, with the low-end entry point for grabbing, twisting or squeezing the genitals under law 9.27 in World Rugby’s laws being a 12-week ban. A mid-range entry point would be 18 weeks, top-end would be 24-plus weeks and the maximum is 208 weeks.
While some fans tweeted that they just witnessed a sexual assault, Gareth Thomas, a former Wales star who came out as gay in 2009, made a joke of it in his capacity as a match analyst.
“It would never have happened in my day and I’m really upset about that because if it had then I wouldn’t have retired,” said Thomas as his fellow studio analysts laughed.
A gay player making a joke about wanting his crotch grabbed? Thomas really missed on this one and seemed to realize it with an apology the next day that nonetheless felt forced and halfhearted.
“To the VERY small minority of people who were offended by my comment yesterday I apologise,” he wrote on Twitter. “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.”
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❤️— Gareth Thomas (@gareththomas14) March 8, 2020
Thomas has been an amazing role model for other gay players in ruby and beyond, so he gets a pass on this being nothing more than a bad attempt at humor on live TV that fell flat. Let’s all agree that non-consensual crotch grabbing is never OK, on or off the field. Rugby needs to sit Marler down for his actions.