Real reason Israel Folau chose not to kneel before match

Andrew Reid
·3-min read
Pictured here, Israel Folau standing before kick-off in contrast to his Catalans teammates.
Israel Folau stood up before kick-off when his teammates and opponents were kneeling. Pic: Getty/Twitter

The motivations behind Israel Folau’s controversial pre-game snub in the English Super League have become clear.

Folau refused to join Catalans teammates and opponents in taking a knee to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement in Super League’s return on Sunday.

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His decision not to take part in the pre-game gesture drew widespread criticism from viewers.

Great Britain legend Martin Offiah said the former Wallabies star owed it to the public to explain his actions after the game.

“It shows you that life is not black and white. He’s a complex, controversial character, Israel,” Offiah told Sky Sports.

“Why he didn’t take the knee? We’ll only know if we go and ask him after the game. It’s interesting to see he stood up.

“You need to put a microphone in front of Israel and get him to speak for himself.

While the Aussie superstar has remained tight-lipped about his decision, a reason has emerged around why he chose to stand before kick-off.

Wide World of Sports, citing a source at Folau's Catalans club, says his decision comes down to his conservative religious beliefs.

"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."

Religious beliefs behind refusal to kneel

The reason is the same that baseball star Sam Coonrod gave when he was the only player not to kneel before the MLB's first game back between the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals.

"I can't kneel before anything besides God," Coonrod explained after the game.

"I meant no ill will by it. I don't think I'm better than anyone. I'm a Christian. I just believe I can't kneel before anything besides God — Jesus Christ.

"I chose not to kneel. I feel that if I did kneel, I would be being a hypocrite. I didn't want to be a hypocrite. Like I said, I didn't mean any ill will toward anyone."

Folau's Catalans coach Steve McNamara said his side had spoken about kneeling before the match and he respected players' rights to make a personal choice with regard 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.”

Folau’s controversial religious beliefs that included homophobic comments on social media, were the reasons behind his Rugby Australia termination last year.