The disgraced Australian Rugby Star, Israel Folau had been sacked from his professional team and from Australia’s national team last year after claiming that “hell awaits” gay people and using his fundamentalist religious platform to advocate for anti-LGBTQI so called “religious freedom” laws. Despite initially being banned from Rugby Australia and then settling out of court, the athlete’s playing career in Australia was dead in the water.

However, it was reported that Folau has signed a new deal to play in France for an RFL team called the Catalans Dragons. The club is part of the Super League which means that the majority of his away matches will be in the UK. This has certainly not gone unnoticed by other members of the Super League, most notably the Wigan Warriors.

Folau’s first match with the Dragons is set to be on March 22nd against the Wigan Warriors, who responded by declaring the March 22nd match as “Pride Day.” The Warrior’s “Pride Day” match will include having the club’s players where rainbow socks and laces, while also invitied LGBTQI groups to attend the match and be a part of the day. Wigan Warriors Executive Director, Kris Radlinksi shared,

“Here at Wigan Warriors we are committed to the core values of inclusion and respect. Our community foundation has a long history of supporting local LGBTQ+ groups and initiatives, and we want everyone who engages with our game to feel welcome, valued and most of all, respected.

“Rugby League has a strong history of inclusion, of breaking down barriers and of being a forward-thinking sport. I think that today more than any day that it is vitally important we reiterate that message.

“We’re looking forward to working with charities, local and hopefully national groups, to make this day a success.”

In an statement shared with PinkNews, Wigan MP Lisa Nandy shared,

“I look forward to celebrating Pride Day with other Wigan warriors. Rugby League is rooted in communities and our community has a proud history of standing together against intolerance.

“At a time when LGBTQ+ hate crimes have been on the rise it’s more important than ever that we speak out against bigotry and show solidarity.”

By Dirk Smith

Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images