Rugby player set to face off against Israel Folau says his ‘homophobia’ is a failure of the modern world
Rugby player Jon Wilkin has spoken out after disgraced star Israel Folau was hired by a new team.
Folau was sacked from the New South Wales Waratahs and Australia’s national team last year after claiming that “hell awaits” gay people – but signed a new deal to play for France-based RFL team Catalans Dragons this week.
The move has sparked anger within the Super League – the primarily UK-based competition in which the Dragons compete – with the Wigan Warriors declaring a ‘Pride Day’ to coincide with their match against Folau’s new team.
Rugby player calls out Israel Folau over views.
Toronto Wolfpack player Jon Wilkin has also spoken out about the decision to hire Folau, who has repeatedly reasserted his anti-LGBT+ beliefs by blaming the devil for transgender children and claiming that bushfires devastating Australia are “God’s judgment” for same-sex marriage.
Speaking to LBC, Wilkin said: “In the modern world, every professional sports person in the world has a responsibility to control his output.
“To use that platform to shame people and to make people with a different way of life feel as though they’re living their life inappropriately, I just believe is wrong.”
Of claims that Folau is being victimised for his beliefs, he responded: “Telling somebody they’re going to get a P45 for their beliefs is wholly different to telling a group of people in the world that they’re going to burn in hell for eternity.”
Wilkin continued: “If you want people to come on board with you, you firstly have got to build rapport with them, then you have to empathise with them, then only then after that trust is built will they listen to you.
“For Israel to put this out there without trying to establish the rapport and empathy with the people he’s communicating to, it’s not only a failure by him, it’s a failure of the modern world. ”
Despite his objections, Wilkin said he does not plan to boycott matches against Folau, saying: “I’ve no issues playing against him.”
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Trailblazing gay rugby hero Gareth Thomas has said he is “really upset” at the decision to recruit Folau, especially as “the game, players, and fans were so good” to him after he came out as gay in 2009.
“All I hope is that as much as Folau wanted his right to speak, then players and fans alike are aloud their right to respond,” he tweeted. “I will never watch him.”
Keegan Hirst, who became only the second professional British player to come out as gay in 2015, also said he was “shocked and disappointed.”
“Our great game is tasked with fighting against homophobia and standing up for the values it puts such high stock in,” he tweeted.
“It shows none of the bravery, camaraderie or integrity @rfl expects from its players, staff and fans.”