No sanc­tion for Fo­lau over re­marks

The Witness - - SPORT -

SYD­NEY — Rugby Aus­tralia (RA) said yes­ter­day they had ac­cepted the po­si­tion of Is­rael Fo­lau (pic­tured) that he did not mean to harm the game with his anti-gay re­marks posted on so­cial me­dia ear­lier this month and con­firmed that he would face no sanc­tion.

Fo­lau, who is an Evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian, cre­ated a firestorm of con­tro­versy in Aus­tralia and in rugby cir­cles, af­ter he wrote on his In­sta­gram page that gays would be con­demned to “hell” if they failed to “re­pent”.

His com­ments were de­scribed as “very dis­ap­point­ing” by Qan­tas air­lines, a ma­jor spon­sor of Rugby Aus­tralia, while in­ter­na­tional ref­eree Nigel Owens, who came out as gay in 2007, said such com­ments could con­trib­ute to young peo­ple tak­ing their own lives.

In a col­umn on Mon­day, Fo­lau ex­plained his ra­tio­nale for mak­ing the re­marks and said he had of­fered to walk away from the sport if RA found it­self in an un­ten­able po­si­tion with spon­sors and fans.

RA chief ex­ec­u­tive Rae­lene Cas­tle, who met with Fo­lau last week to dis­cuss the is­sue, is­sued a state­ment yes­ter­day say­ing the player would not face any sanc­tion from her or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“In his ar­ti­cle, Is­rael clearly ar­tic­u­lated his re­li­gious be­liefs and why his faith is im­por­tant to him and has pro­vided con­text be­hind his so­cial me­dia com­ment,” Cas­tle said.

“In his own words, Is­rael said that he did not in­tend to up­set peo­ple in­ten­tion­ally or bring hurt to the game. We ac­cept Is­rael’s po­si­tion.”

One of the na­tion’s top play­ers and most mar­ketable ath­letes, Fo­lau’s con­tract ex­pires at the end of the sea- son and RA are keen to ex­tend it be­yond next year’s World Cup in Ja­pan.

His New South Wales Waratahs coach Daryl Gib­son said Fo­lau was free to ex­press his views and that team unity had not been af­fected.

“We may not all agree with his be­lief but we sup­port him as a team­mate and his right to ex­press that freely,” Gib­son told re­porters.

“I’ve al­ways said every­one is free to have a range of di­verse opin­ion. That’s the beauty of be­ing a team — we’re not all go­ing to agree on the same thing.”

The Su­per Rugby side take on South Africa’s Lions in Syd­ney on Fri­day. The Lions go into the clash with­out cap­tain War­ren White­ley.

The 30-year-old had been ex­pected to make his re­turn to the start­ing lineup, but he has not yet fully re­cov­ered from his knee in­jury and misses out once more.

Franco Mostert will con­tinue to cap­tain the side in White­ley’s ab­sence, and he will start on the side of the scrum once again in the No. 7 jer­sey.

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