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Sorry Israel, I don’t want you back in the NRL

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    Will Israel Folau return to the air this weekend? (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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    Last year at the NRL grand final, Macklemore performed his smash hit ‘Same Love’ in front of 79,722 people.

    While he sang that song, on the big screens at ANZ Stadium the following words played on loop – ‘we stand for diversity’, ‘we stand for inclusiveness’ and ‘we stand for courage’.

    It was one of my proudest moments as an NRL fan; to see our sport stand up and say that it is one that welcomes everyone no matter their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or beliefs.

    It’s because of this that we cannot have Israel Folau back in the NRL if he continues to share particular views in the manner he has been sharing them over the last month.

    I can pre-empt some of the responses to that comment.

    ‘You can’t discriminate against someone because of their beliefs’
    Israel is free to believe whatever he wants. There are many deeply religious men and women who are an integral part of our game that may share Israel’s views. My question is, why are they not commenting in a similar way?

    Is it because their faith is not as strong as his? Are they not as brave as he is? No. It is because they understand that being an adult in civilised society means you have responsibilities in how you speak to others and how you express yourself.

    David Pocock is another player that shares controversial views and is very passionate about particular causes. We have never seen him cause a media stir quite like this.

    Similarly if the head of a large organisation, as a representative of that organisation made similar comments, they would be subject to sanction as well. If I made hurtful or hateful comments while representing the company I work for, I would also be subject to sanctions.

    It’s not about what Israel believes, it’s about the way he is choosing to express those beliefs.

    Some have suggested that Israel is expressing himself in a manner similar to those who advocate for the LGBTIQ community using rainbows and colours and photos and that those posts cause similar levels of discomfort and distress.

    That is ridiculous.

    The facts tell us that LGBTIQ youth experience poorer mental health outcomes and specifically, have higher rates of depression and youth suicide and that this is directly related to stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse.

    Israel has a large following and his comments have the potential to be exceptionally damaging. I would argue that seeing a rainbow on Twitter does not have the same impact.

    I knew what Israel’s position on the LGBTIQ community was before he decided to use his Instagram account to suggest that gay people would go to hell unless they repented their sins. But after he shared that post, despite my sadness and disappointment I perhaps thought that he didn’t understand how much hurt he was causing.

    He had it very clearly explained to him after that post with a response that was loud and clear. He has now chosen to post again, warning against ‘tolerance’ of same-sex marriage.

    Israel Folau Waratahs Super Rugby Union 2017

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    It’s clear to me that Israel has no concern for the potential damage that he is causing, particularly among the LGBTI community. This is dangerous and inappropriate.

    Israel is free to believe whatever he likes. But he is not free from consequence for sharing those beliefs.

    As a Qantas Wallaby and NSW Waratah, Israel is a representative of rugby union. Let’s face reality – rugby is in some real trouble in Australia at the moment and doesn’t need its highest-paid player causing global controversy. Instead of using his platform to talk up the game, he is instead using it to share hurtful views targeting a particular segment of the community.

    I wonder how Alan Joyce, CEO at Qantas, feels about Israel wearing a jersey with his company’s name across it – a company which have been staunch advocates and supporters of the LGBTIQ community?

    Earlier this week Mal Meninga came out and said ‘I would love to see [Israel] back playing rugby league… he would be welcome back in our sport with open arms’.

    As a proud South Sea Islander man, I wonder if Mal would feel the same way about a player who continued to use their social media platform to share racist views, which could cause tremendous hurt to a community which he loves very much. What if that player genuinely held those views? Would that be okay?

    And would we even be having this conversation were Israel not such a great player?

    I can pre-empt another response to this article.

    ‘There are players that have done much worse than Israel playing in the NRL right now’.
    To that I say a couple of things. Firstly, that each situation must be judged individually on its merits. Secondly, we must accept the reality of our game. That reality is that for many of the players, were they not playing footy, their lives would be radically different.

    Some could potentially be in jail. Some would not be working. Some would be struggling to make ends meet. Not all of our players have had the benefit of an easy childhood and plenty have fought very hard to chase their dream to play footy.

    Our game genuinely changes the lives of so many.

    Many men in our game have made mistakes, but it is one of my favourite things about the game that we give these men a second chance and give them another opportunity – if they demonstrate that they really want it.

    Good examples of men who have used their second change include players like Manu Ma’u and Russell Packer – these are men who have made mistakes, fulfilled their legal obligations and then come back to our game stronger.

    Russell Packer tackled Matt Moylan

    (AAP Image/Daniel Munoz)

    The only way I could possibly welcome Israel back into the code is after having a frank conversation with him and asking him to not harden his heart and think very carefully about the way he chooses to share those views he is so passionate about.

    Two of the most fundamental tenets of Christianity are treating others the way you wish to be treated and loving your neighbour as yourself. I ask Israel to consider the people around him, understand the power of acceptance and the joy in living in a world where people are welcomed with arms open no matter their beliefs, race, gender or sexual orientation.

    Our game is one which welcomes everyone who shares our simple and beautiful values of excellence, inclusiveness, courage and teamwork. And I want it to stay that way.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (262)

    • May 14th 2018 @ 7:31am
      concerned supporter said | May 14th 2018 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      Oh Mary, please, another article on Israel Folou. This matter has been done to death, and you have revived it

      • May 14th 2018 @ 9:15pm
        Swannie said | May 14th 2018 @ 9:15pm | ! Report

        Nah, Izzy revived it with his latest post. This one wont go away, Izzy wont be playing in Australia next year which is cool He pretty over rated anyway.

        He’s will struggle to maintain employment with any organisation that has an inclusion policy. So Rugby and Rugby league are not going to keep him around if he wants to be a high profile homophobe.

        What I never quite understand why so many people of religious conviction are so obsessed with other peoples sexual preferences, really who cares?

        • May 15th 2018 @ 4:33am
          Jed Clampit said | May 15th 2018 @ 4:33am | ! Report

          Such hypocrisy.
          But I’m sure your unable to see it.

          • May 15th 2018 @ 9:37am
            Concerned Observer said | May 15th 2018 @ 9:37am | ! Report

            That may be because you’d have to point out the hypocrisy there old Jed

            It’s all well and good to make these edgy statements but they’re pretty hollow in the vacuum of an online forum about rugby league and other sports

            I’ll pre-empt you there a little bit though. The above comment is not intolerant but fairly realistic – Izzy’s gonna struggle if he wants to be a high profile person in places that have strong policy’s about tolerance – what he says and does in his own home or his own life is up to him but, there’s a huge difference between saying that to your church mates and saying it to a public forum where people listen to you and where people who look up to you have to see it. He can still say what he wants but that doesn’t automatically deny other people a right of reply or protects Izzy from consequences his words may have. Remember, censorship is a government preventing you from saying something, AusRugby forcing you to take it down is Terms and Agreements in your contract. People calling him a horrible person is them expressing their own freedom of speech. Something many cretins have trouble with.

            Imagine, and this may be very, very very difficult for you. That you are a kid in junior rugby who’s gay, may still be in the closet, may not, irrelevant. One day your hero, one of the faces of Australian Rugby says you’re going to hell. You may not believe that but it hurts to know that a person you look up to thinks you’re inherently flawed and bad because of something you have no control over.

        • May 15th 2018 @ 8:37am
          John Templeton said | May 15th 2018 @ 8:37am | ! Report

          I hope he considers coming to America, where there’s still have some level of free speech and freedom of conscience. Love to see him try his hand in the NFL and a fourth football code. He doesn’t deserve the treatment he’s being subjected to. Maybe he can claim refugee status, as clearly he’s being persecuted for his opinions.

          • Roar Guru

            May 15th 2018 @ 10:15am
            The Barry said | May 15th 2018 @ 10:15am | ! Report

            Right.

            So it’s clear you don’t know what freedom of speech or freedom of conscience actually means.

          • May 15th 2018 @ 12:05pm
            Dean said | May 15th 2018 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

            Such Irony, given Kapernick. All he did was kneel at an inanimate piece of fabric. Issy thinks fellow humans are going to hell just because they’re gay, presumably including team-mates, staff members and people he plays against.

          • May 15th 2018 @ 12:19pm
            no one in particular said | May 15th 2018 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

            Because the NFL have proven they love free speech

      • Roar Pro

        May 15th 2018 @ 8:13pm
        Jason Andrews said | May 15th 2018 @ 8:13pm | ! Report

        Sorry Mary, I don’t think you should write anymore articles about this topic

        • Roar Guru

          May 16th 2018 @ 9:31am
          The Barry said | May 16th 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

          Comments from the super coach…

          • Roar Guru

            May 16th 2018 @ 4:33pm
            BigJ said | May 16th 2018 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

            Jesus Barry! Do you have to belittle everyone you don’t agree with??

            • Roar Guru

              May 17th 2018 @ 9:30am
              The Barry said | May 17th 2018 @ 9:30am | ! Report

              [Mods. No SWEARING. WARNING]

              • Roar Guru

                May 17th 2018 @ 9:39am
                The Barry said | May 17th 2018 @ 9:39am | ! Report

                Sorry 😐

            • Roar Guru

              May 17th 2018 @ 9:36am
              The Barry said | May 17th 2018 @ 9:36am | ! Report

              PS you are going to burn in hell for all eternity for taking David Lord’s name in vain…

              • Roar Guru

                May 17th 2018 @ 10:46am
                BigJ said | May 17th 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

                No I won’t. Heaven wont let me in and hell is too afraid I’ll take over. Your old mate BigJ WILL LIVE FOREVER!!!!! Ha ha

              • Roar Guru

                May 17th 2018 @ 12:46pm
                The Barry said | May 17th 2018 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

                As long as you don’t keep sticking knives in the toaster…

                I’m sure Satan is quaking in his cloven boots at the thought of wild old teetotalling, spent a decade playing playstation b-jay-jay moving in.

                John Wilkes Booth, Lizzie Borden, John Dillinger, Blackbeard, Benedict Arnold, the starting lineup of the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers, and Richard Nixon fos starters are well ahead of you.

                Actually, with your form at showing rock solid support you’re probably a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist and Aetheist

              • Roar Guru

                May 17th 2018 @ 6:18pm
                BigJ said | May 17th 2018 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

                Nice Simpson’s reference. Surprised you came up with it.

              • Roar Guru

                May 17th 2018 @ 6:24pm
                BigJ said | May 17th 2018 @ 6:24pm | ! Report

                There is a Chuck Norris fact that states “when the boogeyman goes to sleep at night he checks the cupboard for Chuck Norris

                Here is a BigJ fact.

                When Satan goes to sleep he checks his incoming list to make sure BigJs not coming to take over. Ha ha

    • May 14th 2018 @ 8:21am
      Nambawan said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:21am | ! Report

      Mary, I have been in rugby league for a very long time and I emphatically did not agree with the NRL’s involvement in the SSM/homosexuality issue.

      As for Israel Folau, I agree, equally emphatically, with Mal Meninga.

    • May 14th 2018 @ 8:27am
      peeko said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      The interesting thing about all this hoo haa is that Israel is a very good player of both codes but not an all time great that this uproar makes him out to be

      This is going to get ugly. have fun, im out of here.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 14th 2018 @ 9:27am
        Don said | May 14th 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        Yep.
        Any NRL club that signs Folau on big coin thinking he can play fullback in League is nuts.
        He is a centre / wing.
        You can’t have $1.3m sitting on a wing or just finishing off what the halves put on for you.

        He was a spectacular League finisher but never had the overall talent or impact of a guy like Inglis.

        And his tweets over the past few months have only served to lower his market value in both codes. Big Mal may want to see him back but plenty of sponsors would not want to have him wearing their brand.

        • May 14th 2018 @ 12:18pm
          no one in particular said | May 14th 2018 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

          Can’t have that money in the centre either in todays game. Only playing half the field

    • May 14th 2018 @ 8:42am
      Duncan Smith said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      Folau thinks being gay leads to torment in Hell. Well, that presents Christianity in a very poor light. I’m no Christian, but his comments embarrass Christianity. Not so much for the anti-gay thing, but the idea of eternal Hell in itself, which is an appalling idea.

      Folau doesn’t offend me, he just makes himself look silly with comments like that.

      • May 15th 2018 @ 8:50am
        John Templeton said | May 15th 2018 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        You’re not a Christian, but you’re worried that a core Christian principle for thousands of years is “embarrassing” Christianity? Interesting.

        Regardless of the specifics of the viewpoint, which I won’t waste time getting into, because its not relevant, the issue is the loss of freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. The whole idea that a discussion whether someone can or can’t express an opinion on sex or morals in a ostensibly free society is mindblowing. I can’t honestly believe that such a debate is even happening in any western country that claims to be a democracy.

        • Roar Guru

          May 15th 2018 @ 9:05am
          The Barry said | May 15th 2018 @ 9:05am | ! Report

          There’s no freedom of speech issue here.

          Folau has exercised his freedom of speech.

          You’re talking about freedom of speech from consequences which never has or never will be a thing.

          • May 15th 2018 @ 9:27am
            Justin Kearney said | May 15th 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

            Stop making sense Barry. These lads think freedom of speech means you can say whatever you like without consequences. You can’t argue with the mob when that’s their starting point.

            • May 15th 2018 @ 10:31am
              Nate said | May 15th 2018 @ 10:31am | ! Report

              Israel is entitled to his opinion. He shouldn’t be spared from having to take accountability for said comments. Truth is the LGBT community have faced adversity, endured socially accepted stereotypes and alienation for quite some time. But his comments are his opinion. See it for what it is and ignore it. The LGBT community is far more socially accepted and embraced than it has been… ever.. its all good. Everyone chill. Israel.. maybe learn the importance of showing more social understanding and sensitivity to the issue when expressing your opinion. Can’t picture Christ telling a young gay man that he will likley burn in hell… he rebuked the pretentious scribes and pharisees for judging a harlot. For the record im agnostic.

    • Roar Guru

      May 14th 2018 @ 8:55am
      Emcie said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      This feels like it missed the boat by about a month…

    • May 14th 2018 @ 8:57am
      Boz said | May 14th 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      From a purely football perspective, I don’t think he would add much to the NRL. His asking price would likely add to a lot of clubs steering clear too.

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