To me Nigel Owens is the complete referee, the main man in charge of 30 players intent in ripping the shreds out of each other. It was only in the last few years did I realise that this quick witted genius of a referee was also a ground breaker. Owens has been an inspiration to people not just around the UK, but around the world, namely helping those dealing with the struggles connected to sexual identity and steroid abuse.
Tormented in his youth about confusion over his own sexuality, his personal steroid abuse, which collectively led to a suicide attempt, Nigel came through his early challenges with the love of his family around him, his friends supporting him and his courage to rise up and demand respect.
Nigel Owens is now seen by many, both on and off the field as an inspiration in leading the profile and rights for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people across the world. His demand for respect now goes above his initial challenges he faced and he is now leading the conversation in tackling homophobia in rugby and within the wider community.
As a sport, I feel rugby has been far more advanced in recognising the contribution and supporting gay and lesbian players who contribute to the sport week in, week out. Other sports, like football, certainly trail rugby, basically as it lacks a Nigel Owens or Gareth Thomas character to break the glass ceiling and trail blaze for other players and officials.
Listen to what Nigel had to say at the recent Attitude Awards where he was awarded Hero of the Year.
For me, some of the greatest Owen’s moments are wrapped up in this clip below…and he confirms in this RTE interview about the greatest thing rugby offers, both on and off the field, which is respect…a fantastic value that I fully instill in my boys, and which is supported each weekend by great ref’s like Owen.