One of the few Aussie Rules footballers to come out as gay has slammed Israel Folau’s controversial social media posts.
Jason Ball, who came out as gay in 2012 while he was playing local footy in Victoria, has revealed the full toll Folau’s words can potentially have on young players.
“When I read Israel Folau’s comments on Wednesday they took me right back to a place of shame and isolation,” Ball told news.com.au.
“I loved playing sport, but on the footy field, the word gay was used to mean bad, weak, stupid or disgusting.
“The toll it took on my mental health was profound. At times I wondered if it would be easier if I didn’t exist.
“I am now an out and proud gay man, but it broke my heart to think of all the kids struggling to come to terms with their sexuality who would hear Folau’s assertions that “hell awaits” them and feel ashamed, afraid and alone.”
Ball, who is believed to be just the second man at any level of Aussie Rules football to come out as gay in the national media, has applauded Rugby Australia’s stance.
“While I support freedom of speech, no freedom is absolute nor without consequence,” he says.
“Sport is a proxy religion in this country. Whether he likes it or not, Israel Folau is a role model to many young people, and when he speaks, his words carry weight.”
Ball is now an activist and politician, contesting the seat of Higgins at the 2019 Federal election as a member of the Greens.
He helped introduce the inaugural Pride Cup in Victoria, a game promoting inclusion and diversity, which garnered support from the AFL.
What’s next for Folau?
As for Folau, he’s headed for a bitter showdown with Rugby Australia, pledging to tackle the governing body head on in a desperate bid to save his career.
Folau met RA boss Raelene Castle on Friday, with neither party backing down in a feud that threatened to turn ugly.
Folau maintained a stony silence after earlier holding crisis talks amid RA’s threat to tear up his multi-million-dollar contract following his latest attacks on homosexuals.
Rugby Australia later released a telling joint statement with the NSW Waratahs.
“Our joint position regarding Israel Folau is unchanged,” it said.
“Following today’s meeting, the two organisations will update their respective boards on the matter to consider next steps.”
Meanwhile, a new report has outlined the ‘legal loophole’ that may force RA into a stunning backdown in their plans to sack Folau.