Israel Folau, who once famously said that hell awaits gay people, has signed with a new rugby sports club much to the anger and disappointment of many on social media.
The 30-year-old has been signed by French Super League squad Catalan Dragons nearly a year after his contracted with Rugby Australia was terminated over repeated homophobic online posts.
The Dragons announced their news on Instagram on Tuesday, January 28, next to a photo of a beaming Folau mid-game. “Dragons are pleased to announce the signing of Israel Folau with immediate effect,” they wrote which was followed by a ton of criticism about their decision in the comments section. “Say goodbye to all of your sponsors! Homophobic,” one wrote while another chimed in with, “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
One in particular highlighted the contrast between how Folau is as an athlete and who he is outside the game. “Amazing player, but as a human being not sure that’s a good idea for the club’s values.” Not everyone was against him, however, as other social media users praised the Dragons for adding him to their team. “Give the lad a chance he has his views I don’t agree with him but he deserves a chance to make a living. Great signing for super league.”
I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions. but personally, I will not support gay marriage.✌❤🙏
— Israel Folau (@IzzyFolau) September 13, 2017
Folau has a long history of angering the LGBTQ community and its supporters. He tweeted his opposition of same-sex marriage in September 2017 (that tweet is still live on his page). He was also one of Australia’s highest-paid athletes before being sacked for social media posts that declared homosexuals are destined for hell.
In 2018 he wrote a column for Athlete’s Voice where he denied the homophobic accusations against him. “Since my social media posts were publicized, it has been suggested that I am homophobic and bigoted and that I have a problem with gay people,” he said. “This could not be further from the truth.”
“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.”