Wallabies superstar Israel Folau has sparked a Twitter backlash by revealing he will not support the push for same-sex marriage.
Folau tweeted on Wednesday afternoon: “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage.”
He was immediately inundated with dozens of replies criticising him for his stance.
Folau is believed to be the first high-profile sportsperson to have publicly announced their opposition to same-sex marriage.
It comes after numerous sporting organisations – including the Australian Rugby Union, the NRL, Cricket Australia and Football Federation Australia – declared their support for a ‘yes’ vote in the government’s postal survey.
The 28-year-old was raised as a Mormon and is a devout Christian after his family converted in 2011.
Folau credits his relationship with God as one of the reasons for his athletic prowess and his success in the NRL, AFL and rugby union.
His views are in stark contrast to Wallabies teammate David Pocock, who has taken the year off rugby but will be back in the Test ranks alongside Folau next year.
A passionate campaigner for a variety of social issues including homophobia and marriage equality, Pocock famously declared four years ago that he would not tie the knot with his partner Emma Palandri until gay people were legally permitted to do the same.
As recently as last month, Pocock was using his Twitter account to encourage people to check their enrolment to ensure they are able to vote.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and captain Michael Hooper also met with politicians in Canberra earlier this week to show their support for same-sex marriage, with the team currently stationed in the nation’s capital ahead of Saturday’s Test match against Argentina at GIO Stadium.
Folau’s tweet didn’t only draw criticism, however, with many in support of his right to make his state his opinion among the 132 replies, 45 retweets and 172 likes within the first hour of it being posted on Twitter.