Sydney (AFP) – Israel Folau’s anti-gay comments would not be tolerated if he opts to switch codes to rugby league, Australia’s NRL chief warned Friday as clubs circle the Wallabies superstar.
The devout Christian, one of rugby’s most marketable players, sparked uproar this month when he said God’s plan for gay people was “Hell. Unless they repent their sins and turn to God”.
He was summoned to a meeting with Rugby Australia this week over his use of social media, but no action was taken other than Folau agreeing to “think about” the impact of his remarks.
The 29-year-old’s rugby union contract is up this year, and he has attracted big interest from rival code rugby league, with reports that up to six clubs are keen to secure his services.
National Rugby League chief executive Todd Greenberg warned such comments about gay people would not be acceptable if he switches codes.
“Being inclusive can’t just be a word on a wall. You have to live and breathe it every day. Sometimes you get challenged on that. Inclusiveness also means everyone gets their view,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“But I’d be having the one-on-one conversation to talk through how that is being portrayed right now. I don’t agree with Israel’s view, despite having a really strong relationship and affection for him as a person and player.”
Greenberg said all athletes had to be careful in their public remarks.
“There are people who will read that and it will be quite damaging to them. There are young boys and girls in cities and regional areas who will read that and find it hard to deal with because Israel has a large profile,” he said.
“That would not have been his intent, but it is very damaging to some people.”
The dynamic fullback played in Australia’s National Rugby League from 2007-10, moved to Aussie Rules for two years before switching codes again, this time to union, by signing with the New South Wales Waratahs.