Wallabies sponsor pressured over Folau’s homophobic slur
RUGBY Australia's major sponsor, Qantas, has responded to Wallabies star Israel Folau's latest controversial comment, that gay people are headed to hell.
Australia's highest-profile player sparked social media outrage on Wednesday when in response to a question he said gay people were headed to "HELL... Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God".
The governing body said on Thursday that "Folau's personal beliefs do not reflect the views of Rugby Australia", as a flurry of Twitter users questioned whether Qantas - a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage - should align itself with the Wallabies and, by association, Folau.
"Rugby supports all forms of inclusion, whether its sexuality, race, or gender, which is set out in our Inclusion Policy (2014)," Rugby Australia said in a statement.
Qantas echoed Rugby Australia's position.
"As a sponsor of Rugby Australia, we're supportive of their approach towards tolerance and inclusion, which aligns with our own," a Qantas spokesperson told foxsports.com.au.
Folau deleted his post after he was asked "what was gods (sic) plan for gay people," but a screen shot allowed other social media users - including the fullback's some 337,000 followers - to see the provocative exchange.
A devout Christian, Folau served as a face of the Bingham Cup, an amateur gay rugby tournament staged in Sydney in 2014.
But he first courted controversy last year when he publicly opposed same-sex marriage.
"I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions but personally, I will not support gay marriage," said the three-time John Eales Medallist as Australian rugby's Test player of the year.
Folau's Super Rugby employers the Waratahs consider the 29-year-old's religious beliefs his personal opinion.
But many social media users are less than pleased that "unlike Australia, Israel Folau isn't moving with the times".
"Does @Qantas or the @qantaswallabies have any comments on @IzzyFolau stating that all gay people are going to hell. Is that a core belief of Qantas and the Wallabies?" another user asked.
Another posted: "@Qantas As a major Sponsor for the wallabies are you ok with @IzzyFolau homophobic outburst. Considering a significant amount of your staff are Gay?? I think you should drop the sponsorship."
The 62-Test star is off contract at the end of this year, with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika desperate to secure his attacking trump for next year's World Cup in Japan.