When Israel Folau refused to join Catalans teammates in kneeling at the weekend, fingers were once again pointed at the controversial star.
Folau opted not to partake in the pre-game gesture that has been adopted by sports across the world as a way of honouring the Black Lives Matter movement.
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Many viewers were left stunned as to why the former Wallabies star wouldn't kneel with the rest of his team, with a Catalans insider revealing to Wide World of Sports that it was down to his conservative religious beliefs.
St Helens and Catalans players take the knee before kick-off: but noticeably Israel Folau did NOT join the rest of the players in doing so. Wow. pic.twitter.com/kK0c8tPW7d— Aaron Bower (@AaronBower) August 2, 2020
"He will only kneel for one being - his God," the Catalans insider said.
"He obviously supports justice for black people, being of Islander background himself, but kneeling in protest goes against his beliefs."
Whatever the reasons were, the ugly truth is that this is yet another example of Folau's immense sporting talent being overshadowed by negative headlines.
The 31-year-old was infamously axed by Rugby Australia for posting homophobic comments on social media in the name of his Christian religious beliefs.
The ugly court battle that ensued before Folau was eventually awarded a payout from RA, meant months of negative headlines about the outspoken star.
Then there were his religious sermons, where Folau was slammed for his views on transgender issues, while using same-sex marriage to explain the Australian bushfire crisis.
The negative publicity surrounding him all but ruled out the prospects of a return to the NRL, eventually seeing him sign with Catalans in the English Super League.
Even that signing did not come without controversy as the other clubs in the competition unsuccessfully lobbied to have his contract blocked.
It meant the state of the Super League season was largely overshadowed by the controversy surrounding one man, with a similar scenario unfolding on the weekend for the first round back since the COVID-19 break.
Negativity overshadows Folau’s sporting talent
Once again it was the outrage over Folau's personal choices that had detracted from anything he subsequently did out on the footy field.
Speaking on Big Sports Breakfast, English rugby league journalist Matthew Shaw says it's unfortunate many fans will remember Folau more for the negative press, more than his sporting prowess.
“The shame with Israel Folau and everything that’s gone down since he joined the Super League is it goes under the radar, his ability as an athlete,” Shaw said.
“I’m not saying that he should change his beliefs or comply with whatever so that that’s recognisable.
"What I would say is that he’s been fantastic as a player since coming, but it never gets discussed because of the off-field baggage, I suppose you’d describe it as.
“I get the impression that Israel is never going to be very far from the headlines during his stay at Catalans.
“He generated a lot of headlines and probably not the headlines that Super League wanted on its return."
“There was a lot of headlines of the like of ‘Israel Folau overshadows Super League’s return’, which naturally the competition didn’t want.”
The Aussie star’s decision not to kneel before his side’s latest match has been defended by his coach, however.
Catalans boss Steve McNamara said his side had spoken about the pre-game gesture and he respected players' rights to make a personal choice with regards to it.
“As a group of players and coaching staff, we spoke about it in depth and as a club we are completely against racism and all for equal opportunity,” McNamara said.
“But there were some players and staff who made the decision not to take the knee.
“That was based on personal choice, they have their own reasons for doing that, and we decided we would respect anyone's personal choice on the matter.”