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Israel Folau has met with Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle and her NSW Rugby counterpart Andrew Hore, and while he hasn’t been issued with any sanction, the Wallabies star has given no clear commitment to stop his comments demonising gay people.
Folau made headlines last week when he commented on Instagram that God’s plan for gay people is “Hell. Uness they repent of their sins.” Folau also courted controversy last year during the marriage equality plebiscite when he tweeted his support for the ‘no’ campaign.
The comments received widespread backlash and brought Rugby AU under commercial pressure, with high-profile partner Qantas saying they may end their sponsorship following the incident.
However, despite that fallout and recognising that what he said “caused some grief”, Folau has given no guarantee that he won’t make similar comments in the future, with Castle saying the star fullback has gone away to think about his approach to social media after an “open, calm and honest” discussion today.
“Where we’ve got to is Israel’s presented his situation to us and where his views are and his beliefs are and we’re proud of the fact that he’s a strong believer and he’s prepared to stand up for what he believes in and we want athletes in our code that are prepared to do that and that’s really important,” Castle said.
“But at the same time, Rugby Australia’s also got a policy in a position of inclusion and using social media with respect.
“So that’s where we shared stories and we shared ideas and we shared positions and both of us recognise that what we want is a situation where we use our social media platforms in a respectful and positive way.
“Israel’s gone away to think about that. He’s proud of what he is and what he stands for, so he wants to make sure that we’re not asking him to compromise those beliefs.”
Castle said Folau “acknowledged he could have put a more positive spin on the message” – although what kind of a positive spin he could have put on a post condemning gay people to hell wasn’t touched on.
Castle didn’t rule out handing down a sanction to Folau in the future, saying it is an ongoing process, of which the meeting today was only the first step.
Folau, Castle and Hore are set to have further meetings in the coming days.