Wallabies star Israel Folau has put God and his Christian beliefs ahead of his career, offering to walk away from his Australian Rugby Union contract.
Folau was heavily criticised for a post on Instagram two weeks ago in which he said God’s plan for gay people was “HELL”.
He reinforced those comments in a column for the Player’s Voice website posted on Monday night, adding that he felt he had been misrepresented after a meeting with ARU chief executive Raelene Castle and NSW Rugby boss Andrew Hore.
“During the meeting I told them it was never my intention to hurt anyone with the Instagram comment, but that I could never shy away from who I am, or what I believe,” Folau wrote.
“They explained their position and talked about external pressure from the media, sponsors and different parts of the community, which I understand.
“After we’d all talked, I told Raelene if she felt the situation had become untenable — that I was hurting Rugby Australia, its sponsors and the Australian rugby community to such a degree that things couldn’t be worked through — I would walk away from my contract, immediately,” he wrote.
Folau said he believed Castle, at a subsequent press conference, had misrepresented his position and his comments, and had done so to appease other people.
He said he has “no phobia towards anyone” but refused to back down on his beliefs.
Folau said he “could never shy away from who I am or what I believe”, and speculation he was looking for a way out of his ARU contract to take up big offers elsewhere was false.
“This is not about money or bargaining power or contracts. It’s about what I believe in and never compromising that, because my faith is far more important to me than my career and always will be,” he wrote.
The rugby league and AFL convert said his Instagram comment was to give someone “guidance”, not to cause offence.
“Since my social media posts were publicised, it has been suggested that I am homophobic and bigoted and that I have a problem with gay people.
“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.”
In a tweet posted on September 13 last year, Folau said: “I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions but personally I will not support gay marriage.”