Israel Folau Not Backing Down from Homophobic Remarks as He Seeks Return to Rugby

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Sunday May 23, 2021
Originally published on May 23, 2021

Israel Folau
Israel Folau  (Source:Associated Press)

Australian former rugby champ Israel Folau is looking to get back into the sport, but he's not backing down from the anti-LGTBQ commentary that lost him his $4 million contract with Rugby Australia in 2019, UK newspaper The Guardian reports.

"As a Christian, I stand by the Bible and what the Bible says," Folau stated. "Every written word that's written in that book, I stand by that and that's all I'll say about that."

Folau is looking to join "an amateur Gold Coast rugby league club," the Guardian article said, and he had "backing from billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer."

Palmer sponsors the Southport Tigers, the article noted, and has sworn he "would pledge every cent, every dollar, and every waking moment of my time to ensure that he takes the field again."

Though Folau has "signed" with the team, the article said, "Queensland Rugby League will have to approve Folau's registration for him to play in the competition."

Palmer vowed to take "legal action" if QRL doesn't play ball, the Guardian said.

Folau's professional downfall began with a social media post in which he opined that "HELL awaits" LGBTQ people. The post drew widespread condemnation and violated Rugby Australia rules regarding the conduct of its players. Rather than refrain from attacks against the LGBTQ community, Folau further defied those rules with subsequent posts, losing lucrative brand sponsorships and eventually seeing his contract canceled.

Claiming "persecution" based on his Christian beliefs, Folau brought suit. He also doubled down on his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in sermons he delivered at his church. Eventually, Rugby Australia settled with Folau, who extended an apology as part of the settlement's terms. Folau then went on to play for French team the Catalan Dragons for a year. When his contract expired, Folau sought a place with Australian team the St George Illawarra Dragons. Those talks, however, evaporated in the heat of a backlash from fans not eager to see Folau return.

Folau has two brothers who play currently for the Southport Tigers. "Palmer says it was their suggestion which opened the door to their sibling," the Guardian noted.

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.