WELLINGTON – Waikato Chiefs halfback Brad Weber has condemned Wallabies superstar Israel Folau's anti-gay comments and urged other rugby players to speak out.
Weber said he could not remain silent after Folau wrote on social media this month that God's plan for gay people was hell unless they repent their sins.
“Kinda sick of us players staying quiet on some of this stuff,” Weber tweeted late Tuesday. “I can't stand that I have to play this game that I love with people, like Folau, who say what he's saying.”
Weber, who earned his sole All Blacks cap in 2015 but has struggled with injuries since, said he was disgusted Folau, a devout Christian, was judging his loved ones.
“My cousin and her partner, and my aunty and her partner are some of the most kind, caring & loving people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing,” he wrote. “To think that I play against someone that says they'll go to hell for being gay disgusts me.”
Rugby Australia has decided against sanctioning Folau over his comments, saying the player never intended to hurt anyone.
Referee Nigel Owens, who attempted suicide as a young man struggling to accept he was gay, said he respected Folau's religious beliefs but the player should think about the impact of his words.
“When you're in a position of privilege like that, there comes a responsibility in the way in which you convey those beliefs,” he told British lifestyle website joe.co.uk. “Me being gay is not a choice. There are young people out there taking their own lives, feeling like I did.”
Owens urged Folau to “judge me and other gay people on the content of their character, not on their sexuality”.
The furore has cast doubt on Folau's future with the Wallabies after he revealed this week that he had offered to walk away from the final year of his contract if Rugby Australia thought he was hurting the game.
Rugby clubs in Europe and Japan, as well as Australia's National Rugby League, are reportedly interested in signing the 29-year-old.
Until Weber's comments, Folau's fellow players have been largely quiet about his remarks, aside from a message of support from his NSW Waratahs teammate Curtis Rona.
The Wallabies' major sponsor Qantas, which strongly backed Australia's gay marriage referendum last year, told AFP on Wednesday that there were “no changes” to the contract, which is due to expire in 2020.