Newcastle Knights NRL footballer Ryan Stig has landed himself in hot water over comments posted last week on several of his social media pages that compared homosexuality to alcoholism and a “politically correct charade” that was tantamount to a “spiritual disease” and “demonic”.
The Knights have informed the Star Observer the club does not support Stig’s views and will be handling the matter “internally” while the halfback and five-eighth’s understanding of the Bible has also come in for questioning by none other than Australian rugby union star and noted LGBTI rights supporter David Pocock.
The Sydney Convicts who will be hosting the international gay rugby union championships – the Bingham Cup – next year in Sydney have also called on Stig to attend the competition as a guest and for the NRL to follow the lead of the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and implement a specific anti-homophobia code.
Stig reached out to social media just one day after the ACT’s historic territory-based same-sex marriage laws were passed, turning to Facebook and Twitter on October 23 to post a long note on his opposition to marriage equality on the proviso he was adding his “2 cents” because he was sick of “seeing deceived christian [sic] and religious leaders”.
‘Homosexuality demonic work’
“I see more and more christian leaders succumbing to this politically correct notion of supporting ‘marriage equality’,” he wrote.
“Homosexuality is a fairly good example of distortion of design for fairly obvious reasons. When laws such as this … are created it makes covenant with unseen realms of the demonic which work to infiltrate and come against the thought lives of our cities states [sic] and nations”.
Stig, who originally joined the Knights in 2011 having been a 2007 Australian Schoolboys representative while attending Newcastle’s St Philips Christian College, then continued:
“Consider a man who continues in his homosexual ways which also pose the threat of aids [sic] compounding in a lot of the time lifelong sickness if not death, why in his right mind would he do this,” he wrote.
Stig also threw his two cents worth that homosexuals were made not born saying gays “are hurting people who have often been pushed down this road due to previous hurts”.
“I for one have gay people I call my friends and whilst I don’t agree with their sexuality, I don’t agree any less than I would a husband or wife cheating on their spouse,” he wrote.
“One thing we are hearing more Is [sic] that homosexuality can be genetically traced, well if that is the case there is as much proof of that for alcoholism yet their [sic] are no parades for alcoholic pride. I for one won’t succumb to the politically correct charade of it being a healthy lifestyle choice rather that this stance which stenches of deception.”
‘Role model’ should stand down
At the time of publication, Stig’s original post remained visible to the general public and had been shared almost 150 times over Facebook and provoked a flurry of debate on whether the 23-year-old was engaging in bigotry.
“This ‘man’ is supposed to be a role model. I hope his extremist views make him a laughing stock in this day and age. I would also urge his sponsors to consider dropping him,” said one Facebook user.
Rugby star Pocock, a firm supporter of marriage equality, was another to criticise Stig’s understanding of sexuality and religion.
“Very hard to argue bible has specific sexual ethic, rather than just reflecting sexual mores of the time,” Pocock tweeted to Stig with a link to a US website.
Andrew Purchas, founder of the Sydney Convicts and president of the Bingham Cup organising committee, told the Star Observer he was simply astounded by Stig’s views.
“Unfortunately Ryan’s comments shows that there are still some very strong homophobic views out there in society as well as sport, more generally,”Purchas said.
“Hopefully having Ryan coming as an attendee to the Bingham Cup so he can see that gay men playing football is just the same as men playing football anywhere would be important to demonstrate that his views he expressed are completely unaligned and off-centre.
“I think the NRL need to follow the ARU’s lead and implement an anti-homophobia policy. The Bingham Cup and Sydney Convicts are working on that with the ARU at the moment.”
NRL and Knights investigation finds ‘no vilification’
Upon being alerted to Stig’s comments this week, a spokesperson for the Knights told the Star Observer the club was aware of the posts on social media but they did in no way reflect the views of the club.
“The Newcastle Knights does not discriminate against any person or race whether they are a player, supporter or employee within our organisation. We offer equal opportunities for any person to play a role in our Club and do not support the views of Ryan Stig.
“These comments are the personal opinion of Stig, based on his own beliefs and do not reflect those of the Club,” the spokesperson said.
“I have been advised that the Knights will be handling the issue internally. There will be no further comment from the Club at this time.”
The NRL Code of Conduct bounds all players to the sport’s Anti-Vilification Code which states they must not “speak or otherwise act in a manner which is likely to offend, insult, humiliate, intimidate, threaten, disparage or vilify another person on the basis of that person’s race, religion, colour, descent, nationality, ethnic origin, gender, sexuality, marital status, status as a parent, disability or HIV/AIDS status”.
The NRL launched an investigation by its Integrity Unit after being alerted to the matter by the Star Observer, with it finding that Stig did not engage in vilification, according to the NRL’s general manager of Media and Communications, John Brady.
“This does not in our view amount to vilification albeit that it is entirely contrary to the position of the NRL and the vast majority of players in the game,” Brady told the Star Observer.
“Rugby League has been prominent in supporting and promoting sexual equality among athletes and fans alike … and it strongly maintains that stance.
“A vilification policy however cannot prevent an individual holding personal religious views or expressing them within societal boundaries.
“Nobody could reasonably confuse the view as being endorsed by the club or the NRL.”
According to a News Limited report published on October 23 – the same day of his comments over social media – Stig is one of five Knights footballers off-contract for next year and is yet to sign a new deal.
Ian Roberts is regarded as the only gay NRL player to come out and that was nearly two decades ago.