St.George Illawarra has sent an application to the NRL in a bid to get Israel Folau’s services in a two year deal. The decision is being considered, despite ARLC chairman Peter V’landys’ indications that Folau would no longer be able to play after his homophobic controversies in 2019.

Folau has already harmed the queer sporting community, but his acceptance into the Dragons despite this will only compound his damage further. LGBTQI youth are twice as likely to attempt suicide when they’re the targets of homophobia and are more likely to avoid sport or hide their sexuality from teammates to avoid backlash or violence, particularly if they’re men.

Research from Monash University showed that teenage rugby players who identified as “highly” religious were significantly more likely to use homophobic slurs with their teammates. They were also more likely to agree with statements that gay men are “disgusting.”

 St.George Bank has been a major sponsor of the Dragons for 40 years, but will honour the remainder of its contract which is set to expire at the end of 2021. This is despite their proven commitment to the LGBTQI community, releasing their LGBTQI Financial Wellbeing Report in 2017, the first for any Australian financial institution. CEO Ross Miller is also among the Boss-Deloitte LGBTI Top 50 leaders.

“The selection of players is the responsibility of the St.George Illawarra Dragons and the NRL,” the bank said in a statement on the matter. “St.George Bank plays no role in the selection of players and we don’t comment on individuals.

“As a major employer with a large customer base, St.George Bank upholds an inclusive environment that does not discriminate on the basis of gender, ethnicity or sexuality. These values align with the NRL’s own commitment to respecting and celebrating diversity.”

In response to the news, Andrew Purchas, co-founder of Pride In Sport, issued the following statement.

“Views previously expressed by Mr Folau about LGBTQ people do not reflect the standards and expectations that exist today in Australia. His past statements about LGBTQ communities work in direct opposition to the significant progress on acceptance and inclusion that is being made by sporting codes, clubs and organisations across the country.

“Further, if Mr Folau’s appointment as a player eventuates, he must abide by NRL’s policies on diversity and inclusion, and we encourage the Dragons to have in place strategies that will ensure best practice deliverables around LGBTQ inclusion policy, education, visibility, and cultural safety. History has shown Mr Folau’s repeated failures to abide by sporting inclusion policies despite assurances,” and as such “sporting clubs must take a stand against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia when it happens and send a clear message to all Australians that discriminatory words and deeds will not be tolerated.”

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