Rugby union player Israel Folau has escaped unscathed after he made anti-gay comments on Instagram.
Last week, the Australian national player said God’s plan for gay people was ‘HELL’ unless they repented and admitted their sins.
Doesn’t quite fit with Israel Folau’s “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions” line from last year. pic.twitter.com/A023XnxRBd
— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) April 3, 2018
Not even a slap on the wrists
Since then Folau has been at the center of a national media storm about his comments. Many called for him to lose sponsorship deals or even his playing position.
The devout Christian often posts Bible scriptures on his social media accounts and even used the Bible to compare himself to a ‘persecuted prophet’ after the backlash over his anti-gay comments.
The heads of Rugby Australia (RA) and New South Wales Waratahs hauled Folau into a meeting today (10 April).
RA CEO Ralene Castle told media after the meeting Folau admitted he could have worded his comment better. But he stopped short of promising to refine his social media use in line with RA’s policies.
‘We’re proud of the fact that he’s a strong believer and he’s prepared to stand up for what he believes in,’ Castle told media after the meeting.
‘We want athletes in our code who are prepared to do that and that’s really important.
‘But at the same time, Rugby Australia’s got a policy and position of inclusion and using social media with respect.’
So @IzzyFolau essentially gets a slap on the wrist for telling gay people they’re going to hell bc Rugby Australia’s inclusiveness policy needs to include star players, irrespective of their bigoted views + they aren’t sure he’s resigning (so what good would sanctions be, right)?
— Luke Cooper (@luke__cooper) April 10, 2018
But he’s a strong role model
Folau, 29, has Tongan ancestry and is one of the biggest names in both Australian and international rugby union. He also went public last year with his intention to vote ‘no’ to marriage equality during a national vote on the issue.
Castle went on to say Folau was a ‘strong role model’ and RA wanted him to keep playing. She argued that Folau realizes he may have hurt people with his comments.
‘We are in a negotiation with Israel to extend [his contract] and we would really like him to stay in rugby, that’s hugely important to us, he is a great player, he has delivered some great outcomes for us and has been a really strong role model in the Pacific Islander community and we would like to see he stays in rugby,’ Castle said.
‘I think Israel has acknowledged that maybe he could have put a positive spin on that same message and done it in a more respectful way.’
Folau’s a ‘hetero jock’
But some Pacific Island LGBTI activists warned comments like Folau’s encourage homophobia and bullying.
‘We have been in hospital ICU units in Samoa, New Zealand, and Australia when our faces and bodies have been beaten beyond recognition, we have held lifeless bodies who have succumbed to suicide, we have comforted parents of Australian and Pasefika LGBTI children who have died because of this mindless bullying, all because some sports playing hetero jock decided that we should be taught a lesson for being a fag, a tranny, a cross dresser, a bloke in a dress and so many other un-Christian-like insults,’ the activists wrote in an open letter to Folau.
— Jesse Matheson (@Jesse_Matheson) April 10, 2018