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Rugby Australia should have remained neutral on the Folau saga

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Roar Rookie
17th May, 2019
125
1584 Reads

At the outset of the Israel Folau blow-up, two camps clearly evolved, each with its own arguments, indignation, counter-arguments and insults.

As it has continued, each side has to make a number of leaps and assumptions to arrive at their point of indignation.

In the anti-Folau corner, it’s argued that LGBT people’s mental health will be damaged by a rugby player’s social media posts, therefore it is hate speech – and because it was a breach of his contract, Folau should be forever driven from the game.

In the ‘free speech’ corner, it’s argued that he’s entitled to make comments that are part of his religion, Australia has free speech, others say and do much worse without penalty, his contract doesn’t preclude it, Australia has a freedom of religion and it’s not hate speech because he made a statement including other groups of people.

It’s been sad to see such a pile-on all round. The roll-out of team-mates and coaches condemning him is truly a sad moment in rugby.

Some of the solidarity shown to Kurtley Beale earlier in 2019 has clearly gone missing for Folau.

Sure, Folau had already received his warning – but time has revealed that not all is as has been portrayed.

In all of the hysteria, arguments, counter-arguments, quoting of the bible and vitriol all round, what has been lost is that it’s just a game of rugby, and Folau is just a rugby player.

Israel Folau of the Wallabies evades a tackle

(Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

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Everyone has become so caught up in prosecuting their own argument, it’s just insane.

The reality is that on an issue such as this, Rugby Australia’s mistake has been to get involved in the first place.

If an overarching organisation representing differing views take sides in any argument, particularly when you have so many people to work with, you are invariably going to have someone genuinely aggrieved at the position taken.

There are clearly opposing views within the players, just as there are among supporters.

Because of that, RA have placed themselves between a rock and a hard place both publicly and privately.

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Raelene Castle is now being questioned as to her judgement, having ensured the contract was explicit on this issue, when in reality RA would have been better off remaining neutral and out of it all together.

RA should have said from the start that Folau does not speak for the code and that his views are his and his alone. This is exactly what is done by newspapers, movies and radio broadcasters.

Everyone understands this.

They could have pointed to the fact that they do not condone or enforce or regulate the expression of a person’s individual beliefs as they are merely a rugby administrator.

Line in the sand drawn. No taking sides. And a very different position to be responding from.

If certain sponsors can’t respect that, then does that not speak to their own tolerance and inclusivity?