Australian rugby union footballer Israel Folau has been lambasted for saying that gay people are doomed to go to hell.
Folau, 29, first courted controversy last year when he stated his opposition to Australia legalising same-sex marriage. He said then: “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage.”
Folau is again in trouble for a new homophobic comment on Instagram that may have gone too far.
The conservative Christian athlete posted a cartoon about “God’s plan” on his profile which led to one of his followers asking what God’s plan was for gay people.
“HELL…” Folau responded bluntly, adding, “Unless they repent their sins and turn to God.”
The statement did not go down well on social media and has also come under fire from Folau’s rugby bosses and sponsors.
It’s been reported that Rugby Australia (RA) and his team, the New South Wales Waratahs, will be having words with the player.
“Israel’s comment reflects his personal religious beliefs, however it does not represent the view of Rugby Australia or NSW Rugby,” stated Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle.
“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 Rugby’s inclusion policy,” she said.
“We understand that Israel’s comment has upset a number of people and we will discuss the matter with him as soon as possible.”
Alan Joyce, the openly gay CEO of Qantas Airways, which backed Australia’s successful marriage equality campaign and sponsors the Wallabies, is said to be putting pressure on the team to take action against Folau.
There have also been calls for the airline to consider dropping its sponsorship over the comments which appear to be in violation of RA’s inclusion policies.
“We’ve made clear to Rugby Australia that we find the comments very disappointing,” a Qantas spokesman said.
The company continued: “As a sponsor of Rugby Australia, we’re supportive of their approach towards tolerance and inclusion, which aligns with our own.”
Former New Zealand immigration minister Tuariki Delamere has joined in the chorus of criticism and said that Folau’s remarks could lead to him being refused entry to the country.
“There can be no doubt that he is a threat to the public interest and a threat to the public order,” Delamere argued.