Israel Folau supporting gay rugby tournament the Bingham Cup on gay magazine the Star Observer
Israel Folau supporting gay rugby tournament the Bingham Cup on gay magazine the Star Observer

Editor feels ‘smug’ over Folau gay cover

Elias Jahshan, who edited the Star Observer from 2013 to 2016, has revealed how Israel Folau ended up on the cover of the gay magazine.

The August 2014 issue has been recirculated regularly since the ex-Wallabies star was sacked by Rugby Australia for posting messages to social media that included homophobic language.

His willingness to pose in support of a gay rugby tournament five years ago seems a head-scratcher and Jahshan - in a piece discussing his time at the magazine, which is celebrating its 40th birthday - has revealed "Folau was never my first choice".

"We initially wanted David Pocock - arguably rugby union's most visible and vocal straight ally for the LGBTQI community (and all-round dream boat) - but he wasn't available. He was also playing for the ACT Brumbies, and I remember the Bingham Cup media team being keen on giving us Waratahs players since Sydney was hosting the event," Jahshan wrote

"We couldn't interview Folau, but we quoted a Bingham Cup spokesman saying he was against all forms of discrimination. I heard later that Folau had been keen to be part of the photo shoot and had put on a Bingham Cup singlet with enthusiasm. There were genuinely no signs of Folau's homophobia at the time. But perhaps we were all naive.

"Having said that, had I known Folau held these views, I would've asked the Bingham Cup to find someone else to be on the cover. The way we couldn't obtain quotes from Folau directly should've been a red flag. But I can honestly say no one saw this coming. The Bingham Cup organisers never hid what they're all about, so Folau definitely would've known what he was signing up for with the photo shoot.

"It has come to a point where I feel smug each time this front page keeps coming back to bite him. It makes Folau look hypocritical and opportunistic. Someone who cared more about his ego, rather than his beliefs. And until he genuinely redeems himself, I trust that Star Observer cover will continue to be used to highlight that hypocrisy."

According to Aussie public relations expert Nicole Reaney, the damage Folau's post has inflicted on his own career, as well as on Rugby Australia, has been immense.

"It's very serious - as a nation we have evolved, and now we educate our children, our society and our workplaces to be more inclusive, and that's a view shared by the majority of the public," Ms Reaney said.

Folau addressed the cover in a piece for the Players Voice last year. "Since my social media posts were publicised, it has been suggested that I am homophobic and bigoted and that I have a problem with gay people. This could not be further from the truth," he wrote.

"I fronted the cover of the Star Observer magazine to show my support for the Bingham Cup, which is an international gay rugby competition for both men and women. I believe in inclusion. In my heart, I know I do not have any phobia towards anyone."


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