I can’t speak on behalf of homosexuals. But as a sometime drunk, lapsed fornicator, occasional liar and thief, speculative atheist and idolator by trade (hey, nobody’s perfect), I wonder what hell Israel Folau is expecting us all to go to. With our current overloaded schedules of drinking, fornicating, idolating etc, we’re kind of busy. But can the hell he has in mind for us be a more fiery inferno of misery than losing whole slabs of our lives watching a referee repeatedly ask the Waratahs to repack their scrum? Can Folau’s Jesus save us from having to watch the tripe he and his mates served up against the Sunwolves? Does a worse hell even exist? It’s enough to drive you to (more) drink, fornicating, etc.
Rugby Australia has announced it is terminating Folau’s contract because he is violating its wish to include, rather than exclude, people in their game. The problem for the game is, it’s doing the job of exclusion well enough already, and needs no extra help from Folau, his floods and his plagues.
We drunks, thieves, idolators etc have never had much of a problem with being excluded from sporting codes. Au contraire. But what Folau never seemed to understand, in the rarefied realm he inhabited, was that rugby cannot afford to exclude anybody. The game in Australia is a game in varying degrees of crisis at just about all levels, from the poor showing of professional outfits, the shutting down of the Western Force, the difficulty of maintaining sponsors and broadcasters and the challenges of junior participation. Pockets, but only pockets, of the game are prospering. Folau, richly compensated, appears to have been living in one of those pockets. His actions and his sacking must be read in the context of this crisis. His tweets about evil are no longer simply framed by the debate over free speech versus tolerance. They’re not the isolated proselytising of an athlete who might have taken one too many head knocks. Free speech-versus-tolerance, religion and the role of the so-called “outrage brigade” were what Folau’s earlier declarations had been about. That was then. What it’s about now is rugby’s own survival, a crisis which Folau has culpably exacerbated.
When you look at what Folau has done, you can only conclude that he has become a man who must hate the sport he is playing. Why else would he be committing such brazen sabotage? Why would he want to wreck this poor game? Former Wallaby captain Stirling Mortlock put the issue in a nutshell when he said, “You’d love to get to the bottom as to why? Why has he done it? Everyone knows his point of view, right? He’s done this a number of times already. So it’s more [about] what were the motivations to going again knowing full well that he was probably going to get sanctioned?”