Australian professional rugby player Israel Folau is in hot water after he recently said on Instagram that God’s plan for gay people was “HELL… Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”
Seeing as the Pope himself recently said hell doesn’t exist, Folau must be feeling pretty foolish right about now. (Though he most likely isn’t.) The rugger condemned gay people to the non-existent inferno while celebrating his 29th birthday last Tuesday.
For some reason we don’t quite understand, an Instagram user asked Folau, “What was gods [sic] plan for gay people??” Ever the devout Christian and theologian, Folau provided his aforementioned answer. And this isn’t the first time the athlete has made a homophobic comment.
Last year before the public postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage in Australia, Falou tweeted, “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage.”
The LGBTQ sports blog Outsports notes Israel Folau’s comments may violate Rugby Australia’s inclusion policy. Adopted in 2014, the policy states, “There is no place for homophobia or any form of discrimination in our game and our actions and words both on and off the field must reflect this.”
Folau’s homophobia stands in contrast to rugby players like British rugger Ben Cohen and Aussie rugger David Pocock, both of whom have been vocally supportive of LGBTQ rights.
Ben Cohen: Standing up against homophobia
Though Cohen retired from professional rugby in May 2011, he has since focused on The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation to oppose homophobia and bullying. He set up the organization in part because his own father was murdered in 2000 while trying to assist someone who was being bullied on the street.
Since then Cohen created the StandUp Charter to end homophobia across sports (particularly in soccer, rugby and tennis). He also donated a signed jockstrap to support the British gay men’s health charity Gay Men Fighting AIDS (GMFA).
David Pocock: Fighting for love nationwide
When Israel Folau tweeted his anti-gay message before Australia’s postal plebiscite, professional rugby player Pocock tweeted back, “When my survey arrives I’ll #VoteYes for justice and love. #MarriageEquality.”
Pocock also tweeted a quote by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, another LGBT ally, reading, “In the words of one of my heroes, ‘My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.’”
He has debated in favor of marriage equality on Australian television and refused to sign the marriage documents legally binding him to his wife (whom he wedded in 2010) until marriage equality was legalized across all of Australia.