Less than two years after being sacked for posting homophobic content on Instagram, Israel Folau could return to the NRL as the St George Illawarra Dragons submit a formal application to have his ban from the sport revoked.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, St George Illawarra has formally requested the league to allow Folau to play for the club in a two-year deal, essentially asserting that his homophobia doesn’t *really* matter because he’s pretty good at kicking a footy.
“We are always on the lookout for great players,” the Dragons chief executive Ryan Webb told the Herald.
“We have enquired with the NRL about Israel and we will work with them to hopefully see him join us in 2021.”
In case you’ve forgotten, Folau’s contract was torn up in May 2019 after he asserted that all LGBTQIA+ people would go to hell if they did not repent.
You’d like to hope that in 2021 we could have the tiniest shred of decency as to put the basic human rights of LGBTQIA+ people ahead of a literal football team, but it appears the Dragons don’t agree.
The club essentially just said that sure, people will have mixed opinions about him, but he will make us win the big trophy so who really cares, right?
“We understand there will be a range of opinions in regards to this decision, but we believe he would be a good addition to our club,” Webb said in what is truly just giant yikes from me.
At the time of Folau’s sacking back in 2019, ARLC chairman Peter V’landys basically said he’s not welcome to return to the sport on account of the fact that his views are, well, shit.
“The game is inclusive. Israel’s comments are not inclusive,” V’landys said at the time.
“When I was a kid and kids used to get bashed up because they were different, I used to go and defend them. And a lot of them, it’s because their role models or their peers made them that way.”
V’landys basically summed it up when he said that Folau is a role model whether he likes it or not, and that having someone make those comments publicly sets a bad example for young kids.
“I have no tolerance for people that put other people’s lives [at risk] or [commit] violence. It’s a big statement to make. With due respect to Israel, what he says, young kids listen to. He is a role model. They act on it. And when you’re a kid at school and you get bashed up because you’re different, I don’t think that’s a good thing.”
However, it now seems that the league has backflipped on their previous stance and will now consider letting Folau play, provided the decision is agreed upon when they review the proposal in full and speak to relevant people involved in the decision making process.
At the time of Folau’s controversy back in 2019, the league’s first openly gay player spoke publicly about the detrimental effects of homophobia on our community, explaining that “there are consequences to your actions.”
“I say that with the greatest sense of respect, and I’m not implying that Israel’s responsible solely for that, please don’t take it that way,” Ian Roberts told Channel Nine back in 2019.
“But it’s these types of comments and these off-the-cuff remarks, when you have young people and vulnerable people, kids in the suburbs, who are dealing with their sexuality…[who are] confused, not knowing how to deal with it.
“These type of remarks…they can and do push people over the edge.”
But whether or not the NRL actually decides to allow it, it’s important to realise what is happening here.
To put it bluntly, St George Illawarra has decided to turn a blind eye to homophobia in a sport that supposedly prides itself on being inclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community, all for the sake of getting a few extra points on the board.
Allowing Folau back into the league at this point would just be a huge slap in the face to every single person who has helped to make the NRL a more inclusive place and it would be a damn shame to see that happen.