Sydney (AFP) – Wallabies star Israel Folau was facing a backlash Thursday after the devout Christian said gay people were destined to go to hell.
Folau, a three-time Australian player of the year, made the comment this week to an Instagram follower who asked him what was “God’s plan for gay people?”
“HELL.. Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God,” he replied.
The remark appears to breach Rugby Australia’s inclusion policy designed to stamp out discrimination and homophobia in the game, and the governing body distanced itself from Folau’s views.
“Israel Folau’s personal beliefs do not reflect the views of Rugby Australia,” a spokesman told AFP.
“Rugby supports all forms of inclusion, whether it’s sexuality, race, or gender, which is set out in our inclusion policy.”
Sydney’s first gay and inclusive rugby club, the Convicts, said it was disappointed in the Australian fullback.
“Disappointing to see these comments from Israel but his statements do not reflect Rugby Union’s attitude to gay people,” it tweeted.
“@qantaswallabies @NSWWaratahs @pocockdavid and more are all allies of ours and our community” it added, referring to Australia’s national rugby union team, the New South Wales Waratahs club team, and the Wallabies star and anti-homophobia campaigner David Pocock.
Twitter users rounded on Folau, slamming him for “promoting hatred”.
“It disturbs me how people in this day and age can still harbour such narrow minded views, sad really,” wrote Paul Walker, while John Vasek said: “What a fool. Continuing to promote hatred. Fundamentalist Christian imbeciles.”
It is not the first time Folau has sparked criticism for his views on gay people. He tweeted his opposition to same-sex marriage last year ahead of Australia legalising such unions.
One of the key proponents of same-sex marriage was Qantas Airways chief Alan Joyce.
The airline is a key sponsor of the Wallabies and it also came in for criticism Thursday.
“As a major sponsor for the wallabies are you ok with @IzzyFolau homophobic outburst?,” tweeted one person, while another suggested the carrier should drop its sponsorship of the team.