Sydney (AFP) – Wallabies star Israel Folau agreed “to think about” the impact of his anti-gay comments on social media, but he did not commit to stop making them after a meeting with rugby bosses Tuesday.
No action was taken against the devout Christian after he was summoned to a meeting with Rugby Australia over a controversial post on Instagram last week.
Folau is Australia’s highest profile player and caused uproar after replying to a question on what’s “God’s plan for gay people?” with “HELL.. Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God”.
Rugby Australia has an inclusion policy to stop discrimination and homophobia in the sport and chief executive Raelene Castle said the two sides had open and honest talks.
“Israel has gone away to think about (his social media use), because for him he is proud of what he is and what he stands for, so he wants to make sure that we are not asking him to compromise those beliefs,” she told reporters in Sydney.
“But at the same time very much we explained to him that this is challenging for us and… how can he find a way that makes sure that he is not disrespectful, but it doesn’t compromise his own personal beliefs.”
Castle said the meeting was just the first step in a conversation between Folau and the governing body, and dialogue would continue.
The 29-year-old’s contract is up this year, and the sport’s most marketable star has attracted interest from rival code rugby league.
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.
The governing body is balancing its desire to re-sign Folau with the demands of leading sponsors including national carrier Qantas.
Qantas’s chief executive Alan Joyce, who is gay, has been an outspoken supporter for same-sex rights, and the airline has made clear to Rugby Australia that it is not happy with what Folau posted.
Castle said “Israel has acknowledged that maybe he could have put a positive spin on that same message and done it… in a more respectful way”.
She added that Rugby Australia wanted him to remain in the sport, calling him a “great player” who “has been a really strong role model in the Pacific community”.