Nigel Owens said he was “not surprised” to hear that homophobic language was allegedly used by a former Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) employee to refer to him.
But the former rugby union referee told Sky News he was confident the alleged incident “would have been resolved” if the WRU been informed of this.
Owens, who came out as gay in 2007, says rugby has “changed” his attitudes towards members of the LGBTQ+ community – but there is still “a lot of work to be done”.
Regarding the specific allegations of homophobic language made about him, Owens said: “There are individuals or minorities within organizations, within sport, within our families, within our society, who are perhaps not nice people, who use this derogatory language to people… they think it’s funny when it really isn’t.”
Martyn Lewis, referee until 2016, told BBC Wales he recalled hearing a colleague repeatedly refer to Owens as “the gay kid”.
The allegation came after a BBC Wales Investigates program revealed allegations of misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia within the WRU.
The union’s chief executive, Steve Phillips, resigned after the documentary.
Interim CEO Nigel Walker apologized and acknowledged that “a lot of mistakes” were made.
‘Deal with it’
An independent inquiry has been announced to look into the allegations within the WRU.
Former Court of Appeals Judge Dame Anne Rafferty will lead the independent panel.
Owens said the challenge for organizations is to make sure they “deal with it (homophobic language)” and encourage people not to “stand by and say nothing”.
“Knowing who this is or knowing who this individual is, who is no longer part of the union and hasn’t been part of the union for some time, you know it doesn’t surprise me that this language was used,” he said.
“I am very confident that if the WRU as an organization had been made aware of this… it would have been addressed and acted upon, I have no doubt.
“So the question is, if people have heard this being used in an unacceptable way, we need to encourage them to stand up to that person and say, ‘OK, you know, that’s not how we talk about people here. ‘”
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February marks LGBT History Month, an important period on the calendar according to Owens.
“It’s a celebration of the fact that we are now free to be who we are,” he said.
“And it helps people within the LGBTQ+ community to know that there are allies out there, that people care and support us.
“So I think it’s a very important month for many different reasons.”