- The rugby star, a devout Christian, has been heavily criticised for saying “hell” was God’s plan for gays in an Instagram comment.
- Folau says he offered to quit the sport if union officials felt his Christianity was damaging the game.
- He accuses ARU boss Raelene Castle of misrepresenting his views, following a meeting to discuss his comments, in order to appease others.
Triple-code football star Israel Folau says Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle misrepresented his views following a meeting with officials last week to discuss his social media comments on gay people.
Folau, 29, said he offered to resign if his Christian beliefs were damaging the game in a long post explaining his position on Player’s Voice, a website which bills itself as “the human behind the headline”.
A fortnight ago, Folau responded to a question on his Instagram account asking about God’s plan for gay people, replying “Hell, unless they repent their sins and turn to God”.
His comments sparked widespread criticism and he was called to a meeting with Castle and Waratahs boss Andrew Hore.
“During the meeting I told them it was never my intention to hurt anyone with the Instagram comment, but that I could never shy away from who I am, or what I believe,” Folau wrote.
“They explained their position and talked about external pressure from the media, sponsors and different parts of the community, which I understand.”
Folau says he told Castle “if she felt the situation had become untenable — that I was hurting Rugby Australia, its sponsors and the Australian rugby community to such a degree that things couldn’t be worked through — I would walk away from my contract, immediately”.
But when he went home and turned on the TV after the meeting, he “was really disappointed with some of the things that were said in the press conference”.
Folau wrote: “I felt Raelene misrepresented my position and my comments, and did so to appease other people, which is an issue I need to discuss with her and others at Rugby Australia.”
He denies he was trying to get out of his ARU contract to play league.
“There have been things written about me angling to get a release from my Rugby Australia deal to pursue an NRL contract. That simply isn’t true,” he wrote.
“There have been rugby offers from the UK, Europe and Japan that are way above anything I could earn in Australia.
“This is not about money or bargaining power or contracts. It’s about what I believe in and never compromising that, because my faith is far more important to me than my career and always will be.”
Folau explains that he was raised Mormon, but turned away from religion in 2009.
“I tried to fill it with other things. Alcohol. Women. Sins,” he wrote.
“I was playing in the NRL at 17 and, soon after, playing Origin and Test footy.
“That opened me to a world of temptation I had never been exposed to before. I had the means to indulge in that, but not the wisdom to understand what it really meant.
“Often during this period I felt I was losing control of who I was and what I wanted to be. It was all ego and no humility.
“But despite living this materialistic life, I still felt empty.”
The change came when he signed with Greater Western Sydney to play AFL. He says “I was doing what I thought was best for my family, but the reality of the situation – that I wasn’t very good at this new sport – made me upset”.
He’d left his great love, NRL, “to appease other people” and “it left me emotionally broken”.
At that time went to a new church and “experienced God’s love for the first time in my life” and since then, the Bible and Jesus has been his top priority.
“I would sooner lose everything – friends, family, possessions, my football career, the lot – and still stand with Jesus, than have all of those things and not stand beside Him,” he wrote.
Folau says he answered the question about gays “honestly and from the heart”, adding that his answer talking was “about sin as the Bible describes it, not just homosexuality, which I think has been lost on a lot of people”.
“There are many sins outlined in that passage from 1 Corinthians and I have been guilty of committing some of them myself,” he wrote.
Folau says those who know him know he doesn’t upset people intentionally.
Claims that he is homophobic and bigoted are untrue.
“I fronted the cover of the Star Observer magazine to show my support for the Bingham Cup, which is an international gay rugby competition for both men and women. I believe in inclusion. In my heart, I know I do not have any phobia towards anyone,” he wrote.
But he acknowledges that not everyone agrees with his beliefs, including some family members who are gay.
“At times, you can feel alone and down. But Jesus told us that when you stand up for Him in this world, you can expect backlash. I find peace in that,” he says.
On Tuesday afternoon, Rugby Australia issued a statement saying it will not sanction Folau over the April 4 post.
Castle did not address his claim that she had misrepresented him, but said the organisation accept his position based on today’s article.
“In his own words, Israel said that he did not intend to upset people intentionally or bring hurt to the game,” she said.
“Rugby Australia will use this experience as an opportunity to remind all employees of their obligation to use social media in a respectful way.”
You can read Folau’s post on Player’s Voice here.