Former England and Lions star, Will Greenwood, has expressed shock at the lack of sanctions imposed on Australia star, Israel Folau.
Folau, a devout Christian, wrote on his Instagram page that gay people would be condemned to “hell” if they failed to “repent”, sparking widespread outrage. The post has since been deleted.
Earlier this week Rugby Australia’s chief executive Raelene Castle and Andrew Hore, the CEO of Folau’s Super Rugby team New South Wales Waratahs, met with Folau in Sydney but decided against sanctioning the player.
Greenwood, now a respected analyst, is amazed the rugby chiefs down under did not take a stronger stance given the reaction worldwide to the comments.
“It goes against everything that I believe in, but I’m not here to judge Israel Folau. I just judge his words and I think that his words are completely wrong with everything that’s going on in the 21st century,” he said on the Sky Sports’ Offload podcast.
“Freedom of speech, does that give you freedom of responsibility?” Greenwood said on the show. “Freedom of accountability?
“An incendiary topic that Israel is tweeting about and offending a huge amount of people in terms of what he’s suggesting.”
#TheOffload: @WillGreenwood and @SkySportsJimmyG discuss whether Israel Folau's importance to the Wallabies was a factor in the full-back escaping punishment from Rugby Australia. Full podcast: https://t.co/3hKmES0LaM pic.twitter.com/tPsfb1jWR0— Sky Sports Rugby Union (@SkySportsRugby) April 11, 2018
Last year the Wallabies full-back made it clear, also on social media, that he would not support same-sex marriage.
“The flip side of it. Is there a flip side of it? I’m just trying to work out if I can potentially find any form of common ground here, is he clearly has unbelievably deep-rooted beliefs in his own faith,” Greenwood continued.
“However, I just struggle to find words or any faith or under the Christian umbrella that would have someone’s sexuality as how you would potentially judge a person. As opposed to a person’s character and, how you can find yourself judging those who are different to you.”
Following Folau’s comments, a major partner of the Australia national side, Qantas, made it clear to Rugby Australia that they find the comments “very disappointing”
Greenwood noted that a key pillar of the Australian Rugby Union is “inclusion” with their Inclusion Policy (2014) stating that ‘rugby supports all forms of inclusion, whether its sexuality, race, or gender.’
Greenwood told the Sky show: “The fascinating thing again with the Australian Rugby Union is that at the moment their whole policy is one of inclusion. This is going against absolutely everything,” he said.
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
“I do think that it is slightly different to what we have been seeing with Mathieu Bastareaud and Denny Solomona in terms of alleged barbed comments directed at a person.
“I think that these are someone’s beliefs that you can agree with or disagree with in a very strong way and with it potentially find a reason to understand why he hasn’t been banned.
“But, I think that you would be in the minority who would say that you can defend the indefensible here.
“He [Folau] couldn’t be more inflammatory already and if he errs again I would be very surprised to see him in the green and gold,” Greenwood said. “I think it’s that strong.”
Meanwhile Australian rugby legend Peter FitzSimons has slammed Folau: “Mate, pull your bloody head in,” he told local television.
“It is ridiculous. There are people that are left-handed, there are people that are right-handed. There are people that have got red hair, blonde hair, black hair. There are people that are gay, there are people that are straight.
"It’s no big deal, and they’re not going to roast in hell for all eternity, so please give it a break.”
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