Australian rugby star Israel Folau will not be punished for his anti-gay remarks.
The 29-year-old pro sportsman, who is the highest paid rugby player in Australia, caused outrage when he claimed that God’s plan for gay people was “HELL… Unless they repent of their sins” in a now-deleted Instagram comment.
Doesn't quite fit with Israel Folau's "I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions" line from last year. pic.twitter.com/A023XnxRBd
— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) April 3, 2018
While many fans and even some famous faces called Israel out for his discriminatory comments, the chief executive officer of Rugby Australia, Raelene Castle, has now announced that no sanctions will be imposed on him.
“Israel clearly articulated his religious beliefs and why his faith is important to him, and has provided context behind his social media comment,” she said.
“In his own words, Israel said that he did not intend to upset people intentionally or bring hurt to the game. We accept Israel’s position.
“Rugby Australia will use this experience as an opportunity to remind all employees of their obligation to use social media in a respectful way.”
In a Players Voice column titled I’m A Sinner Too, which was published this week, the athlete had offered to “walk away” from his contract with Rugby Australia if it was determined that his views were “untenable”.
He also addressed accusations of homophobia that have been levelled against him, saying they “could not be further from the truth” yet once again referring to gay people as “sinners” in the eyes of God.
“I think of it this way,” he wrote. “You see someone who is about to walk into a hole and have the chance to save him. He might be determined to maintain his course and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say.
“But if you don’t tell him the truth, as unpopular as it might be, he is going to fall into that hole. What do you do?
“In this case, we are talking about sin as the Bible describes it, not just homosexuality, which I think has been lost on a lot of people.”
While the decision has been made not to sanction Israel, some have pointed out that his comments are actually against Rugby Australia’s inclusion policy, which was adopted in 2014.
“Rugby has and must continue to be a sport where players, officials, volunteers, supporters and administrators have the right and freedom to participate regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion and without fear of exclusion,” the policy states.
“There is no place for homophobia or any form of discrimination in our game and our actions and words both on and off the filed must reflect this.”
Australian Rugby Union’s Inclusion Policy, breached by @IzzyFolau when he said that gay people are going to “HELL”. Looking forward to seeing inclusion in action when they respond. pic.twitter.com/Sdmun56HmB
— Ashna Basu (@ashnabasu) April 4, 2018