So there we have it, Isreal Folau has been found guilty of a high-level breach of Rugby Australia’s code of conduct, which gives the governing body the power to annul his contract.
Listening to those who believe Folau did nothing wrong has been a rather confounding experience. It ranges from the everyday citizen claiming he has been sacked for exercising his freedom of expression to the typical exaggerations of Alan Jones, who claimed he has been sacked for saying he is a Christian. That simply is not what happened.
Let’s get a true understanding of the argument that he has been sacked for exercising his right to free speech. This argument is terrifyingly all-encompassing, and flawed. Many people have said it is our right to say whatever we like no matter what.
So I will use some ridiculous examples here, but I didn’t set the rules. What if a Christian pastor told his congregation that homosexuality is an advisable way to be every week for four years as well as encouraging them all to commit adultery? He would lose his position, right? Would he not, therefore, be being punished for exercising his freedom of speech?
What if a science teacher told their year 12 students in every class that God created orange potatoes with the intention of them eventually evolving to grow toupees and become the president of the USA? Would that person keep their job? No – but they should, shouldn’t they? They’re just exercising their right to free speech.
Admittedly, I am not comparing apples with oranges – maybe potatoes with rugby players – but I thought we were allowed to say whatever we want no matter the circumstances. No? Okay, so we have uncovered a double standard – the kind of double standard that leads so many to make statements like ‘political correctness has gone mad’. It’s all a guise to say whatever we like without consequence.
Part of playing rugby in Australia is abiding by the code of conduct, and breaking the code of conduct entitles Rugby Australia to punish the offending player. If they terminate Folau’s contract, it will be on these grounds. People get sacked for this sort of thing in every walk of life every day.
If you still don’t agree, consider this: if your best friend came up to you and said, “Look, mate, I hope your entire family gets murdered tomorrow,” and they meant it, you might not be thrilled by it. But you should be, shouldn’t you? Haven’t they simply expressed their right to free speech? I can feel the comments section already: “It isn’t the same thing”, you will say. Why not? All people should be able to say whatever they like, all of the time, without consequence. That’s your side of the coin, not mine.
So I’ll leave you freedom-of-speech-screaming masses with a question. Do you really care about freedom of speech or do you only care about it when someone gets reprimanded for saying something you agree with? Maybe a better question is why you care so much more about Israel Folau’s right to arrogantly bully than you do about our gay community being ostracised, as they have been for thousands of years?