CAPE TOWN – Rugby Australia (RA) has confirmed its intention to terminate Israel Folau’s contract.
And it’s the right call.
They shouldn’t just terminate it, they should burn it. Whether he repents or not.
Apart from making the news for using his favourite phrase (that is, “repent and you will be set free” or “hell awaits you”) he has also made the news for his Super Rugby record, although the latter has been overshadowed by his latest sermon.
Last year, Folau went on a tirade saying God’s plan for gay people was hell unless they repented their sins. He wasn’t punished for his homophobic remarks, with Rugby Australia saying they did not support his views. Instead, he was given a sort of gag order prior to extending his contract with the Waratahs, on the condition that he would be more respectful on social media.
Clearly he lacked respect for that request just like he lacks respect for anyone he feels strays too far from the guidelines of the holy book.
Then this week, Folau seemed inspired to share some Wednesday wisdom again, sharing a picture on social media that said “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators - Hell awaits you.”
Yep, sinners were condemned to hell once again. At least he should be given credit for spicing up his traditional anti-gay gab by including other sinners as well this time.
After Folau’s latest stunt, RA had said that it would be investigating the matter, and in a press release yesterday, said: “In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract.”
Last year Folau’s social media comments saw major Wallabies sponsor Qantas threaten to pull their sponsorship, and it’s not hard to imagine that rugby would have lost fans and support as a result of his bigoted rants as well.
RA should have no issues getting rid of him. After all, the way he’s gone about giving unsolicited heaven-or-hell directions, it’s like he’s begging for them to do just that. Besides, he’s made it clear that he just doesn’t get it.
Maybe if he were just a regular Joe walking down Victoria Road we wouldn’t be making such a big deal. But he’s not. He’s an international rugby player with a massive following. And with that comes responsibility.
One person who’d know just the kind of impact remarks like Folau’s can have is ref Nigel Owens. Last year, Owens, who’s openly gay, wrote in a column that he was worried about the effect Folau’s words could have on young people struggling with acceptance of their sexuality.
He has previously chronicled his own struggles with sexuality, suicide, and self-acceptance.
There are millions more like him out there, and how do you think a raging zealot’s comments impact them?