Australian rugby player Israel Folau has come under criticism for saying gay people will go to hell.
Asked by an Instagram follower about God’s “plan for gay people,” the 29-year-old center replied, “HELL… Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God,” in a post that’s since been deleted.
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
The comment was quickly met with backlash, with some calling for a termination of his contracts with the Wallabies and the New South Wales Waratahs. Qantas, the Australian airline run by openly gay CEO Alan Joyce and a sponsor of Rugby Australia, released a statement saying “we find the comments very disappointing.”
Folau’s teammate Nick Phipps told Fox Sports that the rest of the Wallabies don’t all agree with his take. “We’re a super diverse group, everyone has got their own different views and beliefs and Iz is a very Christian man. It’s certainly not something that, as a club or as the rest of the squad, we share, but for him that’s just his beliefs at the moment. And we’ve got to support that.”
Folau will now meet with Rugby Australia Chief Executive Raelene Castle, as well as Waratahs CEO Andrew Hore, to explain himself.
“Israel’s comment reflects his personal religious beliefs, however it does not represent the view of Rugby Australia or NSW Rugby,” Castle said in a statement Thursday. “We are aligned in our view that rugby is a game for all, regardless of sexuality, race, religion or gender, which is clearly articulated in [the Australian Rugby League]’s inclusion policy.”
That policy reads, in part, “There is no place for homophobia or any form of discrimination in our game and our actions and words both on and off the field must reflect this.”
Last year, ahead of a national postal survey on marriage equality, Folau said he opposed same-sex marriage” in Australia. “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions but personally, I will not support gay marriage.”
Folau’s contract is up at the end of the year.