Weber works to shut out the hate
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.