It appears everyone’s favourite poster boy for religious bigotry Israel Folau is back in the spotlight.

In the past week, the Australian Christian Lobby has launched a campaign for Folau’s comeback bid under the hashtag #lethimplay, and have started an online petition to garner support for the cause. They even went to the extreme measure of booking a full-page ad in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and have  confirmed they are looking at both television and billboard advertising as part of their last-ditch efforts to throw Folau a career lifeline.

However, Australian Rugby League commission chair Peter V’landys has made it clear that the NRL isn’t having a bar of it and has pushed back against the renewed campaign launched by the Australian Christian Lobby to get the disgraced player back on to the playing field.

‘ACL’s Attempts In Vain’

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According to V’landys,  the ACL’s attempts are in vain  saying in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald that “This Christian Lobby with their full-page ads basically are wasting their resources and money because there is no application.”

The ACL took out this full-page ad in the Daily Telegraph.

Doubling down on his attack on the ACL, V’landys went on to say, “There are a lot more things in life that they could be lobbying for, like [an end to] poverty and inequality and all those sort of things, rather than this.”

Folau, whose Rugby Australia contract was torn up over homophobic comments back in 2019, is still under contract with French rugby league club Catalans Dragons until the end of this year. He was meant to be signing up to play  with the St George Illawarra Dragons until the club ceased negotiations citing public backlash surrounding the controversial decision.

ACL Wants A Contract For Folau

The ACL have encouraged fans to go to NRL games holding banners and signs, to which V’landys has said such supporters would be “wasting their breath”

“I’m the first to promote freedom of speech. They can absolutely express their wishes, but at the moment there is no club who has made an application for Israel Folau. Israel Folau, like every other player, has to follow a process. The process is he has to have a contract with a club and then he has to apply for registration. Neither of those things has been done,” said V’landys

In response to hard-line stance taken by V’landys and the NRL code, Australian Christian Lobby managing director Martyn Iles who claimed the campaign was started without Folau’s knowledge has said in an interview with The Herald. “We’re just hoping the NRL will allow one of the clubs to give Israel a contract,”

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“There are clubs that want him. That’s the reality. There are players, there are coaches that want him.”

‘Folau Has To First Acknowledge Wrongdoing’

Rights organisations have said that Australian sports can do without players who support religious bigotry and have homophobic views.

“ACL might say “let him play” but Israel Folau has time and time again shown that he cannot be a team player or play by the rules,” the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby said in a statement.

“Sporting figures shouldn’t use their profile to denigrate or vilify others. Sporting figures have a responsibility to not spread hate, but bring people together. We are concerned that a return of Folau would mean that the sport condones such tiresome homophobia, and does not value a fair and equitable Australia.”
“Australians and Australian sport do not want players espousing dangerous hate speech to millions of fans, some of which are young and impressionable, and perhaps LGBTIQ themselves,” added NSW GLRL.

In a statement to 7News, Pride in Sport spokesperson Andrew Purchas said that Folau had to first acknowledge his wrongdoing before any return could be considered. “He has repeatedly refused to acknowledge the harm that his comments make,” Purchas said.

 

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