Folau ‘proud’ of anti-gay views
ISRAEL Folau has refused to commit to toning down his comments on social media.
The Wallabies player sparked a furious backlash last week after writing that gay people were "destined for hell unless they repent" on an Instagram post.
Folau met with Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle and NSW Rugby counterpart Andrew Hore to discuss the fallout, but did not front the media.
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle defended the player, telling reporters the talks were open, calm and honest.
When asked if the player had made any commitments to using social media more respectfully, she gave no indication that he would.
"Israel has gone away to think about that, because for him, he's proud of what he is and what he stands for, so he wants to make sure that we are not asking him to compromise those beliefs," she said.
Ms Castle said he is a "strong role model" despite his post saying gay people were going to hell.
She also claimed Folau acknowledged he should have phrased his remarks differently. When asked if Folau understood the pain his comments had caused, she said: "Yes, and I think Israel has acknowledged that maybe he could have put a positive spin on that same message and done it in a more respectful way."
Rugby Australia does not plan to discipline him for his remarks.
"We are in a negotiation with Israel to extend (his contract) and we would really like him to stay in rugby, that's hugely important to us. He is a great player, he has delivered some great outcomes for us and has been a really strong role model in the Pacific Islander community and we would like to see he stays in rugby," Ms Castle said.
The Australian Christian Lobby has issued a statement defending Rugby Australia's decision.
"It is pleasing to see that Folau has not been overtly disciplined for speaking about his faith," ACL Managing Director Martyn Iles said.
"ACL is concerned that the so-called 'ongoing dialogue' with Rugby Australia about Folau's appropriate use of social media could stifle his freedom to speak openly about his faith and marginalise his Christian identity into the future.
"The real test will be whether Folau continues to have the same freedom as other players to speak up for his beliefs, which are shared by millions of Australians."
The conference came just days after Folau tweeted highlighted Bible verses implying he had been "persecuted" for expressing his views.
Several key Rugby Australia sponsors have criticised the footballer's remarks.
Vitamin giant Swisse, consulting group Accenture and HSBC told The Australian Folau's anti-gay comments were not compatible with their values.
But sponsors Coca-Cola Amatil and Taylors Wine said they would commit to their partnership with the sport's governing body.
Qantas, Asics and Land Rover have previously expressed their concerns, saying his remarks do not fit in with their policies of inclusiveness.
Gay referee Nigel Owens penned a personal column criticising the player's remarks, saying they had the potential to tip a young person struggling with their sexuality "over the edge".
"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.
"Yes, you are entitled to your opinion but one should understand what that opinion can do to young and vulnerable people's lives in particular ones in a bad place dealing with their sexuality."
Folau's stance against gay people is well-known.
The devout Christian publicly tweeted that he would vote "No" on the same-sex marriage postal vote last year.
His decision drew a strong backlash on social media, but at the time he said it didn't faze him.
"I stand alongside what I said on that time and I've left it there. I stay true to myself and what I believe in," Folau said.
"I thought about all the things that could happen afterwards, and that's fine for me. I respect everyone and everyone's opinions which is all good."