Folau's anti-gay post condemned as 'unacceptable'
SYDNEY (AP) — The governing body of Australian rugby has condemned an anti-gay post by Wallabies fullback Israel Folau on social media, saying it is "unacceptable" and "disrespectful."
Folau, one of the sport's top players, published a message on his Instagram account that said "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators. Hell awaits you."
Rugby Australia said its integrity unit was looking into the matter, and an announcement was expected Thursday. Folau's comments come just five months before the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, where Folau is expected to be one of Australia leading players.
RA said "the content within the post is unacceptable. It does not represent the values of the sport and is disrespectful to members of the rugby community."
Folau was warned last year after making anti-gay comments on social media, but avoided any disciplinary action. He has publicly aired his anti-gay stance and opposition to same-sex marriage, with one previous message reading that God's plan for gay people was "HELL ... Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God."
At that time, several Wallabies sponsors, including Australian airline Qantas, said they were reconsidering their association with the team because of Folau's comments.
Folau, 30, has played 73 test matches for Australia. Last weekend while playing for the New South Wales Waratahs, Folau scored his 60th try, the most of any player in Super Rugby, breaking former New Zealand winger Doug Howlett's record which had stood for more than a decade.
Two months ago, Folau signed a multimillion-dollar contract extension to remain with the Waratahs and Australian rugby until the end of 2022. Australian media has reported previously that Folau would walk away from any contract if his religious opinions and views on homosexuality were silenced.
Former England rugby international Joe Marler, who now plays for Harlequins in the England premiership, mocked Folau by posting two images of men kissing. Those posts received wide support on social media, with many sharing and liking the images.
Former Wales rugby star Gareth Thomas, who announced he was gay in 2009, said on Twitter that people should "not be influenced" by Folau's words and that Thomas had "sympathy" for Folau.
Britain-based LGBT charity Stonewall supported Rugby Australia's early criticism of Folau's post Wednesday.
"Folau's comments are just one example of how much work is still left to do to combat discrimination and the use of hateful language against lesbian, gay, bi and trans (gender) people," Kirsty Clarke, director of sport at Stonewall, said. "It's important that Rugby Australia have stepped up to challenge Folau's abusive comments."