Following the outcry of (now former) Rugby Full-Back Israel Folau’s posts condemning “homosexuals and fornicators will burn in hell” posts, Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union have released a new statement announcing that they are terminating Folau’s contract, ending his professional rugby career in Australia. The statement reads…
“Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union have made repeated attempts to contact Israel both directly and via his representatives since 6.30pm on Wednesday, and at this point he has failed to communicate directly with either organisation.
“Whilst Israel is entitled to his religious beliefs, the way in which he has expressed these beliefs is inconsistent with the values of the sport. We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts.
“Israel has failed to understand that the expectation of him as a Rugby Australia and NSW Waratahs employee is that he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality.
“Rugby is a sport that continuously works to unite people. We want everyone to feel safe and welcome in our game and no vilification based on race, gender, religion or sexuality is acceptable and no language that isolates, divides or insults people based on any of those factors can be tolerated.
“As a code we have made it clear to Israel formally and repeatedly that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action. “In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract.”
Folau has drawn ire over his comments and social media posts over the last couple years. As the devout Christian has espoused further into his beliefs and has not shyed away from sharing them. Last year he posted similar statements and then retracted them after outcry and the threat of consequences from Rugby Australia over his hateful remarks that target minority populations.
Unfortunately, his extremist views have taken over any other sense of logic and ration. Given that he has chosen not to respond to Rugby Australia or NSW Rugby Unions’ contact efforts over his latest comments, he is forcing Rugby Australia to take action that would not allow for any kind of mediation, education, nor intervention to help him understand how his comments are disrespectful, hurtful, and why they are a violation of Rugby Australia’s guidelines.
This means that Folau chooses to ignore the impact of his statements and may further drive him into more extreme views rather than educate himself, only furthering the divide that allows this kind of behavior to thrive. While Folau is entitled to his opinions, we only hope that he will take the time to learn, understand, and grow from this experience.
By Dirk Smith