Two years after controversial NRL player Israel Folau made an unceremonious exit from Rugby Australia over his homophobic posts on social media, he is making a fresh comeback bid with the backing of billionaire and former politician Clive Palmer.

In a join press conference on Friday morning Palmer announced that his mining company Minearology will sponsor the player who has signed with Gold Coast team Southport Tigers for the remainder of the season, Palmer is the patron of the Tigers.

Palmer said Folau was the “best rugby player in the world”and there was no legal reason why “Israel Folau can’t play”.

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He added that Folau’s two brothers are currently with the Tigers and this will be the first time that they will play together. Folau will take the field in the the Tigers’ game against Burleigh Bears on May 29.

Folau, was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019, following a post on Instagram that “hell awaits”  “sinners” including “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators” and they they should “repent”.

No Remorse

Two years later, nothing much seems to have changed and there was no remorse on Folau’s part about his homophobic statements.

Folau claimed that over the last few years he has had many supporters, and it was the “minority that was being loud.”

When asked about his statements on social media, Folau, a devout Christian, responded that he believed in the Bible and that he didn’t write the Bible.

“I’ll tell you what I do stand for. As a Christian I stand by the Bible and what the Bible says. Every written word that is written in that book, I stand by that… I believe what the Bible says and it is clear. I didn’t write the Bible. That is God’s written word and I believe that wholeheartedly.”

A journalist pointed to the Bible’s message of acceptance, and at this Folau responded: You’ve got to read the Bible in context!”

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Palmer, interjected at this point, to dismiss the controversy. “Anyway, I don’t think that’s a really big issue. We’re here to win the premiership. This is just a beatup.”

‘Issue of religious freedom’

Palmer also sought to cast it as an issue of religious freedom. “We believe in, we  Australia are a very tolerant society… and certainly religious freedom has to be one of the fundamental things. I might not believe in Israel’s or your view of religion but it shouldn’t affect how I play sports with you,” said Palmer.

On being asked if he believed in Folau’s views on homosexuality, Palmer claimed: “I don’t know what his views are to be honest. All I know is that he posted on Twitter or something a quote from the Bible. The Bible is used every day, quoted in churches all across Australia for millions of Australians. I know when we go to Parliament that many Parliamentarians refer to the text of the Bible. They pray every day. I know that when you go to court you are sworn, you put your hand on the Bible. So to me its nothing extraordinary that someone makes a quote from the Bible,” Palmer said, blaming the media for “blowing it out of proportion’.

Folau said he was excited to link up with Palmer and he was grateful for the opportunity that he had been given by the billionaire. And, Palmer asked about the possibility of whether Folau’s registration would  be accepted, promised to deploy his considerable resources, funds, “every cent” if anyone tries to stop the player from returning to the rugby league.

The Australian Christian Lobby, had last month launched a high profile campaign for Folau’s comeback bid with the hashtag #Lethimplay.

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

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