We­ber works to shut out the hate

Nelson Mail - - Sport - Olivia Caldwell [email protected] Is­rael Fo­lau fronted up at Rugby Aus­tralia head­quar­ters yes­ter­day af­ter post­ing a con­tro­ver­sial so­cial me­dia image that has left his rugby ca­reer in tat­ters. Fo­lau en­tered RA’s build­ing in Syd­ney just af­ter mid

Chiefs half­back Brad We­ber says Is­rael Fo­lau’s views on the LBGTQ+ com­mu­nity could do dam­age to young rugby fol­low­ers.

The 28-year-old was the first to speak out about Fo­lau in 2018, when the Wal­la­bies and Waratahs star first tweeted anti-gay state­ments.

This week Fo­lau again tweeted he be­lieves ho­mo­sex­u­als – and ‘‘drunks, adul­ter­ers, liars, for­ni­ca­tors, thieves, athe­ists and idol­aters’’ – were all sin­ners and des­tined for Hell if they didn’t re­pent.

We­ber be­lieves Fo­lau’s re­marks could be dam­ag­ing to young peo­ple com­ing to terms with their sex­u­al­ity in the LBGTQ+ com­mu­nity, namely those who play sport and then see the mes­sage Fo­lau is send­ing on his so­cial plat­forms.

‘‘I know a lot of peo­ple would strug­gle to come out to their team­mates in fear that peo­ple might have the same views as what Fo­lau has showed.’’

We­ber has again felt com­pelled to reach out to those com­mu­ni­ties to say this is not a view shared by rugby play­ers as a group.

‘‘I’ve got fam­ily that are gay, my cousin is about to marry her part­ner and my aunty has been with her part­ner for years. That is all I have kind of known.

‘‘I re­spect that peo­ple have re­li­gious views, that may be be­cause of the way they have been brought up, but it is just not help­ing peo­ple, es­pe­cially those in the gay com­mu­nity. They have al­ready got it tough and there is a high enough sui­cide rate as it is.’’

We­ber was brought up a Catholic. His grand­par­ents and mother are ‘‘staunch Catholics’’ and he went through Catholic schools as a young boy.

He said he was also brought up to be in­clu­sive of oth­ers and has loved ones who are a part of the LBGTQ+ com­mu­nity.

A year since Fo­lau first tweeted his views, more play­ers are shar­ing We­ber’s opin­ion on clos­ing the door on hate speech.

The one-test All Black was pleased to see many more play­ers, both past and present, speaking out this time around.

‘‘Rugby play­ers in the past, we don’t say any­thing about any so­cial is­sue be­cause we were scared of the po­ten­tial con­se­quences and pub­lic back­lash. But now I think we are be­ing ed­u­cated more and we need to be.’’

He had a dis­cus­sion with for­mer team-mate Adam Thom­son who spoke out on Thursday, call­ing play­ers and teams to boy­cott the Waratahs if Fo­lau was not dropped.

‘‘I dropped him [Thom­son] a brief mes­sage and we had a chat about it and he feels just as strongly in sup­port­ing the gay com­mu­nity and any com­mu­nity. It has been cool, I see Michael Leitch [Sun­wolves and Ja­pan cap­tain] has come out with a pow­er­ful state­ment and he has been one of my favourite team-mates ever.’’

While We­ber says Fo­lau and any­one else are en­ti­tled to their views and be­liefs, it was im­por­tant for the Wal­laby not to in­trude on oth­ers’ way of life, es­pe­cially on a pub­lic fo­rum.

‘‘There may be oth­ers that share 9News the same be­liefs as Is­rael, but they don’t go on their so­cial me­dia plat­forms and say this pub­licly. Ev­ery­one is en­ti­tled to their be­lief, but if it is go­ing to af­fect some­one in a neg­a­tive way, es­pe­cially some­one in that com­mu­nity, it is bet­ter left out.’’

Through his fam­ily and ed­u­ca­tion, We­ber knows the Bi­ble well. But he says his loved ones in the LBGTQ+ com­mu­nity and other groups shouldn’t doubt them­selves be­cause of re­li­gion.

‘‘It’s frus­trat­ing be­cause I have been brought up to be in­clu­sive be­cause I know a lot of peo­ple around me in that com­mu­nity.

‘‘I like to think that if the Bi­ble was to be writ­ten to­day a lot of the things that are in there would be very dif­fer­ent.’’

Fo­lau could lose his con­tract un­der Rugby Aus­tralia’s clauses on so­cial me­dia state­ments.

We­ber was sur­prised by Fo­lau’s re­bel­lion given his con­tract with Rugby Aus­tralia but he does not hold any­thing against him.

‘‘I was maybe a lit­tle sur­prised as there was a big up­roar about it last time. He ob­vi­ously doesn’t care too much. I can­not speak for him. It does seem strange.’’

We­ber was un­sure whether rugby play­ers should be seen as role mod­els in the com­mu­nity.

‘‘It is a touchy one. We are definitely role mod­els in terms of how we play rugby , but I think you have got to pick and choose the types of play­ers that are role mod­els. We are not all go­ing to be per­fect, we all make mis­takes at times.’’

The anti-gay so­cial me­dia posts of Is­rael Fo­lau, left, could dam­age young peo­ple com­ing to terms with their sex­u­al­ity, says Chiefs half­back Brad We­ber, right.

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