'Gays Going to HELL' Rugger Loses Sponsor-Provided Luxury Car

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday May 22, 2018

Israel Folau, the star rugby player whose anti-LGBTQ comments have repeatedly stirred up controversy, faced no official sanction from his team or Australian officials of the sport. But team sponsors have been left unamused - and Land Rover took the step of repossessing the luxury vehicle it had provided the athlete.

Folau ignited a social media and real-world firestorm when a follower on Instagram asked him what God's plan might be for LGBTQ people.

"HELL.." Folau responded, his reply emphasized in all caps. "Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God."

The post sparked outrage, with some people pointing to the inclusive policies of Australian rugby as well as those of Folau's team, the New South Wales Waratahs and wondering how sport and team officials would respond. They got their answer soon enough: Hardly at all. Folau met with the chief executive of the New South Wales Waratahs, Andrew Hore, and also with the head of Rugby Australia, Raelene Castle, on April 10. But he showed little in the way of remorse.

Sport 24 reported that while Folau said he would "think about" how anti-gay posts from a national sports hero might affect fans of every sort, "he did not commit to stop making them" after his talk with Hore and Castle.

But sponsors weren't so shy about stepping up for policies of inclusion that sport and team officials defended with little more than half-hearted lip service. Qantas Airlines called Folau's comments "disappointing," and issued a statement in which they declared, "As a sponsor of Rugby Australia, we're supportive of their approach toward tolerance and inclusion."

But only Land Rover, thus far, has matched words with action. Australian newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported that Land Rover snatched back the vehicle it had furnished Folau in the wake of his comments, which also included intimations that he was being subjected to "persecution" due to his Christian beliefs and a declaration that he would rather leave the sport than back away from the anti-gay tenets of his faith.

UK newspaper the Daily Mail noted that sympathy for Folau might be a little misplaced, though, considering that the athlete "still gets around in a lavish $500,000 Lamborghini, purchased with his own money."

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.

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