More Folau backlash as All Blacks star hits out
ALL BLACKS star TJ Perenara is the latest high-profile rugby player to condemn Israel Folau for his controversial views on homosexuality.
Sure to set off more alarm bells at Rugby Australia, Perenara took to Twitter on Wednesday night to say he was "100 per cent against" Folau's comments that have created a firestorm around the world and placed the Wallabies ace's future in the code in serious doubt.
"I'd like to add my voice to the conversation currently taking place," Perenara posted.
"As professional rugby players, whether we like it or not, we are role models for a lot of young people. Notably, young Maori and Pasifika people.
"You don't need to look far to know that young Maori/PI are overrepresented in youth suicide statistics and, as I understand it, even more so when you look to those who are part of the Rainbow community. Comments that cause further harm cannot be tolerated.
"Let it go on record that I am 100 per cent against the comments that were made by Israel. It was not OK to say that.
"It's not an attitude I want to see in the game I love. There is no justification for such harmful comments."
Despite Rugby Australia this week opting against sanctioning Folau for claiming on Instagram gay people were headed for "HELL ... unless they repent of their sins and turn to God", the governing body must be nervous about the increasing backlash the three-times John Eales Medallist is receiving.
Off contract at the end of 2018, Folau revealed in a Players' Voice column that he told RA chief Raelene Castle last week during crisis talks that he was prepared to quit rugby immediately if need be.
"My faith is far more important to me than my career," he wrote. "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."
It remains to be seen how RA and Folau will receive the latest noise coming from across the Tasman and whether the criticism will impact contract negotiations. Perenara joined the debate less than 24 hours after Chiefs halfback Brad Weber slammed Folau's comments as disgusting.
Perenara also revealed he had donated $NZ500 ($AUD470) to a fundraising page for the NZ Falcons, an Auckland-based gay rugby club.
"To anyone, young Maori/Pasifika people especially, who may be struggling with their identity - please know that it is OK to be you," he tweeted.
"You are perfect as you are. Do not let these comments keep you from being yourself. Polynesia has been sexually diverse since forever." In a new move, Castle has sent out a strongly worded memo to Australian Super Rugby players warning them of their obligation to use social media in a respectful way, although it is clear the message is directed at Folau.
"Rugby Australia respects and supports the rights of all players and employees to have their own individual views and to share those views in a respectful way," reads the memo, excerpts of which were published by News Corp Australia on Thursday.
"When we engage in any public commentary, we should be mindful of how our words may be received by the public, including rugby fans, aspiring young rugby players and people at all levels of our game, from the volunteers at a community level right through to the sponsors that invest in our game to make it what it is today."