Rugby Australia, in publicly stating that Folau’s contract would be terminated after the player quoted the Bible in his homophobic rants that all gays go to hell, will in all likelihood have to pay out Folau.
He will argue he was convicted before charged. He will argue he is a victim of social media backlash.
He will insist he is not in breach of his contract and that he has done nothing wrong but express his religious views on a public forum. He will maintain it is his right to express his views and that it is free speech.
Rugby Australia’s position is that they don’t want a player as divisive as Folau and as homophobic as he is associated with the body.
It would be their right as an employer to terminate any further investment in the player. It will come at a cost if Rugby Australia can’t prove he is in breach of his recently signed A$4million (R40.6m) contract.
But the cost to Rugby Australia of keeping Folau in the game would be far greater than A$4m.
Australia, as a country, is divided about Folau and also divided as to whether or not Folau’s damning of gays as sinners is the ranting of a man who should be entitled to share his views to the world on social media or whether it is hate speech.
Rugby Australia’s leadership has been insistent that, as custodians of the sport, they won’t tolerate racism and homophobia.
Leading voices and influencers in Australian media have backed Folau’s right to say what he believes. Among them is former Wallabies coach Alan Jones, who has a huge following as a radio talk show host.
Jones said Rugby Australia’s reaction to Folau was because the chief executive of Qantas is gay and there is a fear of Rugby Australia losing Qantas as their main sponsor.
Jones also said kicking Folau into touch would be nothing more than Rugby Australia bowing to political correctness.
He praised the player for conviction and Christian commitment.
But most of Folau’s national teammates have distanced themselves from the player and taken to social media in condemnation of what he said. They are unanimous that his expressing of his homophobic views is divisive and discriminatory and that these beliefs are harmful.
Former Welsh international Gareth Thomas, who is gay, dismissed Folau’s comments as being sad and international referee Nigel Owens, who is also gay, said Folau’s comments could have a very destructive influence on many youngsters in the sport who idolise Folau. He was referring to young men who were gay or potentially struggling for acceptance about their sexuality.
Thomas and Owens were calm in their response to Folau and tolerant in accepting it was Folau’s right to have whatever views.
The issue, though, is how Folau expressed these views and I just don’t see how anyone can justify having him as an ambassador to the sport of rugby.
Homophobia, racism and prejudice have to be confronted and challenged. Those bigoted dinosaurs who hide behind the mask of religion must be named and shamed.
There should be no return to rugby for Folau and in an ideal world there would be no place for the likes of Folau. The sport doesn’t need those who promote homophobia or racism. Society doesn’t need it.