Star Australian fullback Israel Folau had an ‘open, calm and honest’ meeting with Rugby Australia management and walked away from the meeting without punishment of any kind for his homophobic comments.
Folau, who is a member of the Assembly of God church, wrote that homosexuals would go to “HELL” unless they “repent their sins” in reply to a question on Instagram on April 4.
Rugby Australia Chief Executive Raelene Castle described the issue and situation concerning Folau as ‘not simple’ as it combined ‘religious beliefs, freedom of speech, inclusion, respect and use of social media.’
Folau did not front the media before or after the meeting with Rugby Australia. In an interview after the meeting, Castle said Folau did not want to offend or be disrespectful but at the same time didn’t want to compromise his beliefs.
Castle also sought to placate religious groups who charged that Folau’s own spirituality was on trial, stating;
“We’re proud of the fact that he’s a strong believer and he’s prepared to stand up for what he believes in.
“We want athletes in our code who are prepared to do that and that’s really important.”
However, Castle recognised that Folau’s commentary was against Rugby Australia’s own official mission.
“But at the same time, Rugby Australia’s got a policy and position of inclusion and using social media with respect.
“We shared stories, shared ideas and shared positions and both of us recognise that what we want is a situation where we use our social media platforms in a respectful and positive way.”
In response to a question about whether Folau had made any commitment to using social media platforms in a more respectful way, Castle said: “Israel has gone away to think about that, because for him, he’s 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.”
Castle said ‘dialogue would continue’ with Folau this week as they worked through the issue.