Rugby captain speaks out after homophobic attack: ‘If people don’t report hate crimes nothing will change’

To mark National Hate Crime Week, Connor McKnight is now fronting a campaign with Glasgow council to raise awareness.

A rugby captain has called on others to report hate crimes after being targeted with his partner in a homophobic attack.

After a night of playing rugby, Connor McKnight and his boyfriend, from Clydebank in Scotland, were crossing Edinburgh’s Waverley Bridge when they were confronted by a group who shouted homophobic slurs at them.

McKnight, 28, who is vice-captain of Glasgow’s only LGBTQ-inclusive rugby team, the Glasgow Raptors, challenged the group, only to have one of them assault him and leave him with a facial injury.

Speaking to the Clydebank Post ahead of National Hate Crime Awareness Week, which runs from 14 to 21 October, McKnight said: “A group of four people shouted a homophobic slur at us as we walked back to our hotel after the night out.

“I confronted them, but unfortunately it ended with one of them punching me on the jaw.

“I’m a confident, 5ft 11 rugby forward, and I wasn’t going to have someone speak to us like that.

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“But I was worried things would get out of hand if I retaliated physically. Instead I decided to walk away after telling them exactly what I thought of them.”

McKnight shared that the attack left him feeling hesitant to hold his partner’s hand, or show any kind of affection in public.

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To mark National Hate Crime Week, he is now fronting a campaign with Glasgow council to raise awareness.

“I reported it to the police but no one was ever charged,” McKnight said. “I’m an adult and I can look after myself, but what if it had happened to a queer youth who is less secure in their identity?

“Hate crime is on the rise and I think people need to report it because if we don’t, nothing will ever change.

“Fortunately, I have the support of all my teammates to fall back on. However, some LGBTQI+ folk may not have a strong support network.”

Councillor Elaine McSporran, chair of Glasgow’s Hate Crime Awareness Working Group, applauded Connor for sharing his story.

“Hate crime of any kind is abhorrent and will not be tolerated in this city,” McSporran said.

“Glasgow is an inclusive city and I strongly urge anyone who has experienced hate crime or witnessed it, to report it either to the police or via a Third Party Reporting Centre where they will receive support.

“Only by speaking up, can we call out those who break the law by verbally or physically attacking people for their race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability.”

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Anyone who has witnessed or experienced a hate crime is urged to call the police on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit the True Vision website. In an emergency, always dial 999.

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