Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle and NSW Rugby CEO Andrew Hore will meet with Israel Folau over his social media use.
Folau caused a social media stir on Wednesday, over a now delted Instagram comment in which he suggested that God’s plan for gay people was ‘HELL…Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”
It’s the second time in six months the devout Christian has created controversy with his comments on social media, after tweeting his opposition to same sex marriage in September last year.
That tweet prefaced his opposition with the comment, ‘I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions’.”
His most recent post created polarising reactions, with some commenters agreeing with his religious views, but most criticising his stance and the public nature of the message.
Rugby Australia and the Waratahs had been criticised for not taking a stronger stance on the matter, after a spokesperson on Wednesday night said the national organisation did not agree with Folau’s views, reinforcing the principles 2014 Social Inclusion Policy.
Folau’s club and national teammate Nick Phipps, speaking on FOX SPORTS’ Kick and Chase on Wednesday night, echoed the organisation’s stance, saying the team as a whole did not necessarily agree, but respected his beliefs on the topic.
Major Wallabies sponsor Qantas, whose CEO Alan Joyce is gay and is a vocal supporter of marriage equality and inclusion, reportedly said on Thursday they found the comments ‘disappointing’.
Rugby Australia was one of the founding signatories on an anti-homophobia in sport policy back in 2014, and the Waratahs fined one of its players, Jacques Potgieter, $20,000 for a homophobic slur in a game in 2015.
Rugby AU CEO Castle reiterated the views of Folau did not align with Rugby AU and NSW Rugby, promising to ‘discuss the matter with him as soon as possible’.
“Israel’s comment reflects his personal religious beliefs, however it does not represent the view of Rugby Australia or NSW Rugby,” Castle said in a statement.
“We are aligned in our view that rugby is a game for all, regardless of sexuality, race, religion or gender, which is clearly articulated in Rugby’s inclusion policy.
“We understand that Israel’s comment has upset a number of people and we will discuss the matter with him as soon as possible.”
Folau has previously appeared on the cover of gay publication the Star Observer, as a supporter of the 2014 Bingham Cup, a global tournament for gay rugby teams, started in Sydney.
While the rest of his teammates are in Tokyo to face the Sunwolves, Folau will remain in Sydney, sidelined for four weeks with a hamstring injury.
Folau is off-contract this year and currently in negotiations with Rugby AU over a new deal to take him through to the 2019 Rugby World Cup,with his retention one of Rugby AU’s highest priorities.
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