Wallabies superstar Israel Folau has sparked a Twitter backlash by revealing he will not support the push for same-sex marriage.
Folau, a devout Christian, tweeted on Wednesday afternoon: "I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage."
I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage.✌❤🙏— Israel Folau (@IzzyFolau) September 13, 2017
He was immediately inundated with dozens of replies, with opinion divided among the 132 replies, 45 retweets and 172 likes it received in the first hour of it being posted.
The tweet sparked a lot of criticism, but many showed their support of his right to state his opinion, with former Prime Minsiter Tony Abbott retweeting it.
I respect the belief but why would you feel the need to actively state it? Could just keep it to yourself.— Bundo (@billyography) September 13, 2017
I respect this reply but why would you feel the need to actively state it? Could just keep it to yourself.— Josh (@Obi_FFC) September 13, 2017
that is literally the opposite of loving and respecting people for who they are but ok— Glock Lesnar (@Kevinfinite) September 13, 2017
M8 if you want a group of people to have less rights than you, you neither love nor respect them. At least be honest about your belief.— John Nicolay (@johnnicolay) September 13, 2017
Then don't get gay married! Your opinion should not stop people living their own lives.— Emma Rattenbury (@emmsyjane85) September 13, 2017
That is your decision and you are entitled to it. Much respect for publicly stating something so personal. Champion!— Billy Franklin (@billyhad) September 13, 2017
"I love and respect all people, but not enough for them to have the same rights as me"— Name cannot be blank (@wckiwi) September 13, 2017
Good on you mate standing up for your beliefs & not bowing down to the sheeple for a few likes & retweets— Vladimir Kruger (@RelaxImATroll) September 13, 2017
Bad call dude, you're a great athlete but that's all.— Mick Sheehy (@indomick) September 13, 2017
It comes after numerous sporting organisations - including the Australian Rugby Union - declared their support for a 'yes' vote in the government's postal survey.
The ARU have joined the NRL, Cricket Australia and Football Federation Australia in supporting the ‘yes’ campaign, and have changed their social media logo to a rainbow Wallaby.
Folau was raised as a Mormon but is now a Christian after his family converted in 2011.
The 28-year-old credits his relationship with God as one of the reasons for his athletic prowess and his success in the NRL, AFL and rugby union.
His stance appears to be in direct opposition to a number of Wallabies teammates, with David Pocock and Michael Hooper backing the 'yes' campaign recently.
A passionate campaigner for a variety of social issues including homophobia and marriage equality, Pocock famously declared four years ago that he would not tie the knot with his partner Emma Palandri until gay people were legally permitted to do the same.
As recently as last month, Pocock was using his Twitter account to encourage people to check their enrolment to ensure they are able to vote.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and captain Hooper also met with politicians in Canberra earlier this week to show their support for same-sex marriage, with the team currently stationed in the nation's capital ahead of Saturday's Test match against Argentina at GIO Stadium.
"We’re all very supported of the ‘yes’ campaign and this is the approach we’ve taken," Hooper said.
Australian tennis great Margaret Court recently sparked a similar backlash by expressing her opposition of same-sex marriage.
The tennis champion-turned Christian pastor said it is "disappointing" Australia has to have any poll on same-sex marriage and has urged people to vote against it.
"We have, ever since Foundation, been a proud nation, a nation which people migrated to - to the extent that it eventually had to be restricted," she wrote in a letter to The West Australian newspaper.
"Australia's moral values are the envy of the world; nobody wants to leave and there are plenty in the queue wanting to get in. If we have to vote, let us vote 'no' to gay marriage for the sake of Australia, our children and our children's children."
It is not the first time Court has weighed into the issue of same-sex marriage.
Earlier this year she received a mountain of criticism for a number of statements, all beginning with another letter to The West Australian where she stated she was boycotting Qantas because of their support of same sex marriage.