Israel Folau’s future in rugby is again in doubt following another pair of explosive online posts that insult a range of people from homosexuals to fornicators and drunks.
After initially opting not to comment on Folau’s latest attack, Rugby Australia released a statement late on Wednesday night condemning the Wallabies superstar and devout Christian.
“Rugby Australia is aware of a post made by Israel Folau on his Instagram account this afternoon,” the governing body said.
“The content within the post is unacceptable. It does not represent the values of the sport and is disrespectful to members of the rugby community.
“The Rugby Australia Integrity Unit has been engaged on the matter tonight.”
‘Hell awaits you’
Folau had already tested the patience of RA boss Raelene Castle with a series of homophobic posts last year, most notably one that said “God’s plan for gay people was “HELL”.
The three-times John Eales Medallist was warned but not sanctioned by Castle after defiantly threatening to walk away from the game if his strong Christian beliefs were compromised.
Folau – who turned 30 last week before becoming Super Rugby’s all-time leading try scorer on Saturday after bagging his 60th five-pointer for the NSW Waratahs – had since been largely quiet on social media.
Folau posted a meme that read: “WARNING Drunks Homosexuals Adulterers Liars Fornicators Thieves Atheists Idolaters, HELL AWAITS YOU. REPENT! ONLY JESUS SAVES before adding a bible verse from Galatians.
He went on to personally add: “Those who are living in sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him”.
Folau also took to Twitter to push another issue.
The superstar fullback retweeted a story headlined “Tasmania becomes first Australian jurisdiction to make gender optional on birth certificates” with the comment: ‘The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free.”
The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free. pic.twitter.com/BWSWTMye98
— Israel Folau (@IzzyFolau) April 10, 2019
It is barely two months ago that Folau signed a new multi-million-dollar contract extension to remain with the NSW Waratahs until the end of 2022.
It is not known if the deal with the Waratahs and Rugby Australia, which strongly promotes inclusion, has a clause restricting Folau from making provocative social media posts.
Either way, the latest episode in the saga is the last thing Wallabies coach Michael Cheika needs from his premier back in a World Cup year.
British-based LGBT charity Stonewall has criticised Wallabies star Israel Folau following his anti-gay rant on social media.
“Folau’s comments are just one example of how much work is still left to do to combat discrimination and the use of hateful language against lesbian, gay, bi and trans people,” Kirsty Clarke, director of sport at Stonewall told PA Sport.
“It’s important that Rugby Australia have stepped up to challenge Folau’s abusive comments.
“The more players, fans, clubs and organisations that stand up for equality, the sooner we kick discrimination out and make sport everyone’s game.”
Former Wales international Gareth Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009, responded to Folau’s comments on Twitter.
“I don’t write this with hate or anger after Israel Folau’s comments. I write with sympathy,” the 44-year-old wrote.
“To everyone who reads it, don’t be influenced by his words. Be the better person and be YOU. Whoever YOU is..Hell doesn’t await YOU.Happiness awaits YOU.”
I don’t write this with hate or anger after Israel Folau’s comments.I write with sympathy. To everyone who reads it, don’t be influenced by his words. Be the better person and be YOU. Whoever YOU is..Hell doesn’t await YOU.Happiness awaits YOU.🌈❤️
— Gareth Thomas (@gareththomas14) April 10, 2019
International Gay Rugby, the global organisation for the world’s gay and inclusive rugby clubs, also hit out at the 30-year-old.
“The effects these hateful comments will have on LGBT people are enormously harmful,” the organisation said in a statement:
“We want all LGBT athletes out there to know that rugby is a sport where you are welcome and respected, a sport of values that doesn’t allow for such bigotry or discrimination of any kind.
“We are taking a keen interest on the findings of Rugby Australia’s Integrity Unit when they meet tonight and applaud the union for taking the stance that these kinds of comments are unacceptable.”