Anti-Gay Rugby Player Will Compete in the U.K., and Gareth Thomas Isn’t Having It

"Really upset by this... I will never watch him."

Out rugby legend Gareth Thomas has spoken out against an infamously homophobic player signing on to play in the United Kingdom.

On Twitter, the former Wales rugby star—who came out as gay in 2009 and revealed he is HIV-positive after being blackmailed last September—voiced his opposition to anti-gay Aussie athlete Israel Folau joining the Catalans Dragons, a Betfred Super League rugby team. As Pink News notes, 10 of the Super League’s 12 teams are based in the U.K., meaning the majority of Folau’s away matches will be played on Thomas’ home turf.

“Really upset by this as the game, players, and fans were so good to me,” Thomas tweeted Wednesday. “All I hope is that as much as Folau wanted his right to speak, then players and fans alike are aloud [sic] their right to respond. I will never watch him.”

Folau, of course, was publicly disgraced on and off the field, and eventually fired from Australia’s rugby league, after claiming in 2018 that gay people will “go to hell” unless they repent.

Which begs the question: If Folau’s committment to being vocally homophobic was enough to warrant his dismissal from an Aussie rugby league, then why is the Super League entertaining such a controversial player?

Don Arnold/Getty Images
Israel Folau.

In a statement to Pink News, Kris Radlinski, executive director of Wigan Warriors, another Super League team, stressed the group’s “core values of inclusion and respect”:

Our community foundation have a long history of supporting local LGBTQ+ groups and initiatives, and we want everyone who engages with our game to feel welcome, valued and most of all, respected. Rugby League has a strong history of inclusion, of breaking down barriers and of being a forward-thinking sport. I think that today more than any day that it is vitally important we reiterate that message.

The Warriors also unveiled their LGBTQ Pride Day celebration, timed to their March 22 game against the Catalans Dragons, Folau’s new team.

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