This won’t be the final act in the dramatic play of Israel Folau’s Rugby Union career and I am sure he will fight on to be re-instated as a professional rugby player but surely now, after todays news that he ahs had his contract terminated, all of those doors have been slammed shut in his face.
The black & white of the case is that as an employee, he signed a contract, he betrayed that contract and now it’s been ripped up in front of his eyes.
The story is of course, much deeper than that. The offence that he has brought to the wider public and groups of people who live their lives in a certain way is the issue that really defines this case.
From a rugby perspective, what he proclaimed in those posts from this year and last goes against all of the values that we were raised on as part of a rugby family. Values that every club and player around the world has been brought up on in fact.
The social perspective is where Folau’s actions cause so much debate, creates heated arguments and raises hundreds of questions.
The Waratah is more than within his own right to have opinions, no matter how extreme those are perceived to be. He has the right to follow the God of his choosing and live his life in that manner. His one constant in interviews is that all of this is happening because it’s God’s will and that is the journey that has been chosen for him. I don’t think anyone has a right to challenge the Australian Full Back on that. It would make anyone who has spoken against him a hypocrite.
The next question is when does airing your beliefs and opinions become hate speech? Inciting, intimidating or provoking people is where the line has been crossed and that is exactly what Rugby Australia (RA) and the New South Wales Rugby Union (NSWRU) have decided Folau’s actions have done.
NSWRU Chief Executive, Andrew Hore said: “While NSWRU is disappointed to lose a player of Israel’s calibre, rugby has a code of conduct and values that we must adhere to ensure that our game remains a game for all, no matter people’s background or beliefs.”
There are the values mentioned again. Values that the RA and NSWRU should be credited on sticking to and upholding. Rugby wouldn’t be the game it is without them.
The RA is one of the founder members of Pride in Sport Index (PSI) which aids the inclusion of the LGBT community into sports. Every value they believe in has been mocked by their poster boy and now he is paying the ultimate professional price.
Australia’s best player is now gone in a World Cup year and won’t be selected by Michael Cheika again. Folau is trapped within his own beliefs and there is no way out for him in Australia. National Rugby League (NRL) have made it clear he is not welcome there and it is more than likely that Aussie Rules will follow suit.
Redemption isn’t a possibility and that is something that makes this case so unique. There is no taking this back or trying to rehabilitate Folau. He doesn’t need rehabilitating; these are his beliefs that won’t change nor should anyone try and make him change. No drugs, physical abuse, addictions or cheating for him to be remorseful for here.
Steve Smith and David Warner were able to say that they won’t do it again after their unadvised trip to the local hardware store. Simple. Ban, apologise, live with your own conscience and back into the game.
That is not an option that presents itself to Israel. What’s done is done and that is final.
Unemployed, no Land Rover as he has had that perk taken off him and all sponsorship withdrawn so; how does he come back from all of this as a man and a human being that has a family to support?
He could play abroad but would anyone take him after this? As a player he would be snapped up in an instant but the internal and external damage he could do to a club is immeasurable. The club would be labelled and chastised to within an inch of its history if they did employ him.
Some of those clubs would probably care more than others but modern society loves ostracising and making an example of people for their past indiscretions, so the abuse would follow Folau everywhere he walked, ran and jumped.
The Waratah is stuck. His sporting career is in ruins and because of the discretions that have been listed, he has alienated himself from a large section of society.
His beliefs have trapped him into a world where he can no longer speak his mind in the open as he so succinctly put it in his statement today:
“It has been a privilege and an honour to represent Australia and my home state of New South Wales, playing the game I love.”
“As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression.
“The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God’s word.
“Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country.”
You are absolutely right Israel but the problem is that not everyone needs to hear those beliefs because, as we have all experienced in the past, you don’t want to hear other people’s opinions on certain subjects because they will anger you or incite you into a negative reaction.
No one knows what is next for Folau but I can understand why, in his head, he can’t believe this has all happened to him. It’s just his beliefs, right? They are indeed, but when you have already been warned about behaviour such as this then once bitten and twice shy Mr. Folau.
There is only one thing that he can do now and that is keep his faith and beliefs, trusting that they will move his life forward for the better. Choosing where he airs those beliefs may be a lesson he learns third time around.
That life will no longer excite rugby fans around the world though and that is one of the saddest sides to this whole situation.
Which is something I truly believe!