Australian rugby player Israel Folau was in hot water after making homophobic comments on his Instagram post last month.
Folau posted a picture with a bible verse, and was asked, “What was gods plan for gay people???” in the comments section. Folau responded and said, “HELL… Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”
Doesn't quite fit with Israel Folau's "I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions" line from last year. pic.twitter.com/A023XnxRBd
— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) April 3, 2018
Now, as the fullback is set to return to the New South Wales Waratahs this weekend after missing time for a hamstring injury, Folau is standing by his statements.
“I’ve said what I said in recent weeks,” Folau told reporters on Thursday, the first time he’s spoken about the post. “I stand firm in what I believe in and that’s from something personal with who I am. That’s something that comes truly from the bottom of my heart. That doesn’t interfere with … my rugby and the guys around me.
“As teammates, I’m still the same person and I try to bring that energy as best I can when I’m around the team and obviously going out and playing on the weekends doesn’t change who I am. That’s the most important thing that I’ve learnt probably the last month.”
Many have criticized Folau for his comments, including major Rugby Australia sponsors, other players in the league and even referee Nigel Owens, who came out as gay in 2007. Owens wrote in a column on Wales Online that comments like Folau’s are dangerous, and can have a real negative impact on young people struggling with their sexuality.
“Comments like Israel Folau’s about gay people and all other types of bullying by all kinds of people is what can put people like that young boy in that moment where it’s enough to tip them over the edge, because there is a minority out there who give the impression that you cannot be who you truly are,” Owens wrote. “We need people to understand and respect everyone for who they are, you don’t have to agree with or even like it, but let everyone live their own lives.”
The criticism Folau received since the posts, though, hasn’t bothered him.
“Absolutely not. I don’t take anything personally,” Folau said about his reaction to the criticism. “I don’t take anything personally. I understand everyone is entitled to their opinions and I’ve said what I’ve said in recent weeks. I leave it there.”
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