An Ireland international rugby union player has apologized for ‘liking’ a religious-themed homophobic Instagram post by a fellow rugby player.
Ireland and Connacht center Bundee Aki wrote that he mistakenly ‘liked’ the post by Australian player, Israel Folau.
Folau has come under sharp criticism for posting an image which said ‘hell awaited’ gay people.
Aki apologized for any ‘confusion or offense’ he caused, adding that ‘it does not reflect my views as a Christian’. He said he ‘unliked’ the post when he realized its content.
A number of current players have experienced backlash for ‘liking’ Folau’s post.
This includes England international Billy Vunipola, who has been issued a warning by his club and the Rugby Football Union for expressing further support for Folau.
Rugby Australia terminated Folau’s contract over the post. He is currently appealing their decision.
‘My belief is that he is a God of kindness’
Aki took to Twitter to distance himself from Folau’s controversial post.
‘I just want to address that I mistakenly like Israel Folau’s post without paying attention to the content. When I realised what the post was about I immediately unlinked it straight away as it does not reflect my views as a Christian,’ he wrote in an image of a statement.
‘Yes I do believe in God but my belief is that he is a god of kindness, peace and loves people in all aspects. I have family members, friends, and i have worked with many people who are gay and I have nothing but love and respect for everyone of them,’ Aki’s statement concluded.
— Bundee Aki (@bundeeaki12) April 25, 2019
At the time of publication, Aki’s tweet had reviewed over 5,000 likes with the majority of responses applauding his decision to apologize.
Other athletes have shown their support for the LGBTI community following the controversy surrounding Folau.
Earlier this month, New Zealand All Blacks star Angus Ta’avao donned rainbow bootlaces during his Super Rugby team’s game. Australian UFC star Tai Tuivasa described Folau as a ‘fucking idiot’ for the post.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Rob Baxter, Exeter Chiefs’ director of rugby, said he has spoken to his players to consider their responsibilities when using social media.
‘It’s all very well claiming it’s your own opinion and the value you have of your own opinion and how much right you have to give your own opinion. But, actually, if you put it out there publicly you’re making a statement about yourself,’ said on 24 April.
‘It’s a reminder that they are important and influential people, and if you are an important and influential person you’ve got a responsibility about the things that you say.’
Past instances of homophobia
This is not the first time the 30-year-old Folau has provoked controversy for promoting controversial religious views on social media
In an April 2018 Instagram post, Folau wrote that God’s plan for gay people is: ‘HELL. Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.’
Despite widespread criticism, Folau refused to back down, saying he was simply following his Christian beliefs.
Then in May, Folau posted an 11-minute video on Twitter, which includes a sermon where evangelical preacher David Wilkerson claims we are living in a time of ‘sexual perversions beyond description’.
In response, the rugby star wrote: ‘The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free.’
Though raised a Mormon, Folau has been an active member of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship since 2011. The global coalition of churches has around 70 million members.