Aussie Athlete Back with More Anti-Gay Rhetoric He Calls 'Love'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday May 8, 2018

The Sydney Morning Herald, among other publicaitons, reported that Israel Folau, a star player with Australian rugby team the New South Wales Waratahs, has jumped back into an ongoing fray over his continued anti-LGBTQ social media posts - a clear violation of the sport's code of conduct for which he has yet to be censored.

In his latest broadside, Folau tweeted a provocative anti-gay video. The post stirred the embers of the controversy he sparked last month with an anti-LGBTQ Instagram post that declared God's plans for gays is "HELL" - the all-caps edition of fiery perdition, no less.

Folau's earlier display of homophobia led to speculation that he might be censured for violating the inclusivity policies embraced both by his team and the sport's official organization. In a move some saw as a preemptive strike, Folau took to the Internet with claims of "persecution" before meeting with team and sports officials - a meeting that resulted in no disciplinary action whatsoever. Other rugby players, however, were not so indulgent, with several pro athletes forcefully denouncing Folau's anti-gay messages. The sport's sponsors also made their displeasure known.

Though he's healed from the hamstring injury that sidelined him and is now back in the game, Folau can't seem to let go of the issue, which generates huge amounts of press and social media response. He took to Twitter on May 7 to post a link to a video on YouTube called "It's Time to Get Right With God." The slickly-produced 11-minute video draws from a sermon by American evangelist David Wilkerson, a portion of which is included in voice-over while images show alarming sights such as people dancing in a club, supporters rallying for LGBTQ equality, the White House lit in rainbow colors, and a mouse brutally caught in a trap.

Folau's post reads, "With great love I wanted to share this video in the hope that people watch it and think about it. Jesus is coming back soon and he wants us to turn to him through repentance and baptism.... please don't harden your heart."

Not everyone on social media went along with Folau's rhetoric. Sporting News posted a series of responses to Folau's tweet in which the player and his dubious theology came in for humorous critiques, with comments ranging from the humorously skeptical ("When you Rapture, can I have your stuff?" one commentator asked) to the harsh - as with the post that called Folau out for "hypocrisy" and included an image of the cover of a news magazine's gay-themed edition on which Folau appears, hair partially bleached, over a headline reading "Big Boys and Their Balls."

Others lashed the athlete with tart appraisals of his team's performance on the field.

"Is he coming back in time to save the Waratahs?" one individual clapped back, while another opined that "Jesus would be pretty pissed off that you meekly lost that game against the blues on Saturday."

Another respondent simply wrote, "I can deal with the losses the constant underachievement but if this is what you stand for count me out."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.