No punishment for rugby star who told gays to ‘repent’ or go to hell

SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES - MAY 15: Israel Folau poses during an Australian Wallabies headshots session at Fox Sports on May 15, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

There will be no punishment for a rugby star who told gay people to go to hell, Rugby Australia bosses have said.

Israel Folau, the former captain of Australia’s national rugby union squad, the Wallabies, came under fire last week after saying that gay people are destined for hell on his personal Instagram account.

When an Instagram user asked what God’s plan was for gay people, the player – who was raised in the Mormon Church – responded: “HELL – unless they repent their sins and turn to God.”

The comments led to criticism from a number of other rugby players, but Folau has remained defiant, tweeting a cryptic Bible verse about ‘persecuted’ Christians.

Rugby Australia Tuesday confirmed that the player will not be punished for his remarks.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 21: Australia's Israel Folau chases the ball during the Bledisloe Cup match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Jason O'Brien/Getty Images)


Waratahs CEO Andrew Hore and Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle met privately with the player before announcing the decision.

Speaking to the media, Castle said that no action would be taken after Folau agreed to consider using social media more carefully.

She said: “There’s a very clear policy around social media. When [players] use public platforms they need to think about the implications of a comment they make.

“I think Israel has acknowledged that maybe he could have put a positive spin on that same message and done it in a more respectful way. He understands he’s caused some grief in this.”

She added: “He’s a very religious man. He wants to see everyone live in a positive world but needs to make sure he’s respectful.

“Israel has presented his situation to us, where his views are, where his beliefs are.

“At the same time, Rugby Australia has also got a policy and a position of inclusion and using social media with respect.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 28: Liam Wright and Israel Folau of the Wallabies speak to Tim Nanai-Williams of the Barbarians after the match between the Australian Wallabies and the Barbarians at Allianz Stadium on October 28, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)


“Israel has gone away to think about [his social media use], because for him he is proud of what he is and what he stands for, so he wants to make sure that we are not asking him to compromise those beliefs.”

The decision not to take action comes after Folau tweeted a Bible verse which states: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

“Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Prominent rugby sponsors including airline Qantas had voiced disquiet with the comments.

The player was also condemned by two of rugby’s few openly gay names – former Wales player Gareth Thomas and referee Nigel Owens.

Owens accused Folau of stoking the homophobia that has left many gay players in the sport afraid to come out.

SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES - FEBRUARY 24: Israel Folau of the Waratahs watches on during the round two Super Rugby match between the Waratahs and the Stormers at Allianz Stadium on February 24, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)


Writing for Wales Online, he said: “Comments like Israel Folau’s about gay people, and all other types of bullying by all kinds of people, [is] enough to tip them over the edge, because there is a minority who give the impression you cannot be who you truly are.

“Yes, you are entitled to your opinion but one should understand what that opinion can do to young and vulnerable people’s lives in particular ones in a bad place dealing with their sexuality.

“When you say first of all that you respect everybody and their different views and opinions, then you can’t mean that if you are saying gay people should go to hell because of who they are.

“All that should matter is that if you are a decent human being then you should be respected and treated the same as everybody else and you should treat and respect everybody else the same as well too.”

Thomas, meanwhile, shared a story about Folau’s ‘God’s plan’ comments, adding: “What’s his plan for you then [Izzy Folau]?”

Rugby Australia said in a statement: “Folau’s personal beliefs do not reflect the views of Rugby Australia.

“Rugby supports all forms of inclusion, whether its sexuality, race, or gender, which is set out in our Inclusion Policy.

“We understand that Israel’s comment has upset a number of people and we will discuss the matter with him as soon as possible.”