As Rugby Australia battles to defend its inclusive image it has emerged that several high-profile players have ‘liked’ the latest of Israel Folau’s anti-gay Instagram posts.
Sacked Wallabies fullback Folau caused more controversy last week after he posted an image on Instagram that condemned ‘homosexual, drunks, atheists’ and other ‘sinners’.
The post was accompanied by a short statement that read: “Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.”
Without publicly saying it, some players have again appeared to throw their support behind Folau.
There was speculation in recent months that Super Rugby players were sending a subtle message of support by forming a prayer circle after matches.
More than 70,000 people have ‘liked’ the controversial post, with teammates Marika Koroibete and Samu Kerevi among the thousands.
High-profile league players to ‘like’ the image included Cronulla Sharks backrower Billy Magoulias and Canberra Raiders prop Iosia Soliola.
It raises questions about what type of social media practice among players is appropriate and whether ‘liking’ a post should be treated with the same severity as making the original comment.
This was evident with the difference in handling Geelong superstar Gary Ablett Jr and Carlton’s Matthew Kennedy after they landed in hot water for ‘liking’ another post from Folau, which suggested that homosexuals would go to hell.
No action was taken by the AFL to reprimand either of the players. They later ‘unliked’ the post.
Last Wednesday night, Rugby Australia released a statement calling out Folau’s controversial comments.
“The content within the post is unacceptable. It does not represent the values of the sport and is disrespectful to members of the Rugby community,” the statement said. “The Rugby Australia integrity unit has been engaged on the matter tonight.”
On Sunday Folau maintained his stance, conducting a sermon at a Sydney church.
Speaking to the congregation at The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Kenthurst, Folau again described homosexuality as a sin and claimed the devil was behind primary school children being allowed to decide if they wanted to change gender.
“They say that a man and a man should be able to be married and there is nothing wrong with it. This buys into the theme of pleasing man rather than pleasing God and standing up for the truth.”
The 30-year-old’s rant was posted on the church’s Facebook page.
Folau also criticised modern “westernised” churches and said true believers in Christ “profess him wherever we go”.