Israel Folau: Rugby Australia’s position ‘unchanged’ after meeting with disgraced player over homophobic tirade

Folau refused to speak to the media over the incident after meeting with RA in Sydney, but he will not be offered a second chance by rugby league or by French club Toulon while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticised his latest comments

Jack de Menezes
Friday 12 April 2019 08:23
Israel Folau: Australia rugby player investigated for new anti-gay remarks after saying ‘Hell awaits homosexuals’

Rugby Australia say that their position over Israel Folau’s future is “unchanged” after meeting with him on Friday.

Folau is set to be sacked after posting a picture on Instagram that claimed gay people will go to “hell” if they did not “repent”, which also included a number of other groups including “drunks, fornicators and thieves”.

Having already been warned last year for a similar anti-gay post and agreeing to tighter social media guidelines in the contract he signed last October, RA attempted to contact Folau throughout Thursday and decided that upon his failure to respond, they would tear up his contract.

The 73-cap international was spotted in Sydney on Friday to meet with RA, but he refused to speak to media when questioned about the incident, and the governing body issued a new statement soon after to confirm that they will now report to their board as well as the New South Wales Rugby Union - which is responsible for Folau’s club side the Waratahs - to take the next steps.

“Rugby Australia and the NSW Rugby Union have met with Israel Folau in Sydney today.

“As the meeting was held in confidence between the player and his employers, Rugby Australia and the NSW Rugby Union will not comment on the discussions at the meeting.

“Following today’s meeting the two organisations will update their respective Boards on the matter to consider next steps.

“Our joint position regarding Israel Folau is unchanged.”

The multi-million dollar contract Folau signed in February looks certain to be torn up unless he can convince RA and the New South Wales Waratahs that there are "compelling mitigating factors" for sharing the post.

RA and the Waratahs said they had made repeated attempts since Wednesday to contact Folau, who has not posted anything further on social media, nor deleted the offending meme, since the furore broke.

Media reports said he had visited RA headquarters on Friday and an Australian television news channel questioned him on the street. He declined to answer.

The fallout, however, continued with numerous media columnists opining on what the decision meant for the country and Australian politicians wading in.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is a Pentecostal Christian like Folau, said it was a decision for RA to make.

"Israel's comments were insensitive and it's important that when you're in public life, you're just very mindful of being sensitive to other Australians and that you speak with that empathy," he said.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said RA and the Waratahs had taken the right action.

Israel Folau met with Rugby Australia on Friday but their position over his sacking remains 'unchanged'

"There is no freedom to perpetuate hateful speech," he told reporters in Sydney.

"Some of the comments which have been seen are far closer to hateful than I think appropriate for what people should be doing on social media."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticised Israel Folau for his comments

Former Wallabies coach turned radio host Alan Jones said the decision endangered free speech in Australia and had been driven by RA's concern not to upset sponsors.

"It has nothing to do with Israel, or rugby, or religion, homosexuals, or whatever. Where are we in this country on free speech?" he said.

"We've got an issue here because we're going down a very, very narrow road here."

Folau stands to bac sacked by the Waratahs and will not be offered jobs in rugby league or by Toulon

Folau's chances of switching back to rugby league in Australia were also dashed late on Thursday with the governing body the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) ruling out any return to the sport.

"Israel Folau doesn't pass our inclusiveness culture, which is a policy strongly supported by the ARLC," its chairman Peter Beattie told The Sydney Morning Herald.

"And after talking to some commissioners tonight (Thursday), we don't support him playing rugby league again."

His best chances therefore lie offshore, although the chances of joining French club Toulon appear to be non-existent with their outspoken owner Mourad Boudjellal criticising him in an interview in French newspaper L'Equipe.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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