Referee Nigel Owens says shunned fullback Israel Folau only has himself to blame for the termination of his contract by Rugby Australia.
Folau was sacked for committing a ‘high-level breach’ of the code of conduct over social media posts he made in April where he wrote ‘hell awaits drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators’.
And while the 30-year-old will have another chance to appeal the sanction imposed on him, Owens feels the right outcome has been reached, particularly as Folau has been warned about his conduct in the past.
‘Rugby is an inclusive sport. It’s inclusive for all shapes and sizes, for whatever the colour of your skin is, for whatever your religious beliefs are or whatever your sexual orientation,’ Owens said.
‘Rugby is quite clear there is a place for everybody in the sport, and rightly so. Folau’s situation is a sorry state, but I think Rugby Australia acted in the only way that they could.
‘And they have sent a clear message to people, that look, we respect you are different, you have your different beliefs and that’s fine, and there’s a place for you in rugby, but there is a line that you do not cross when you portray those beliefs as outspokenly as he has done.’
Owens, who is widely regarded as the best referee in the world, revealed in 2007 that he is gay, and said he was worried about the impact that comments such as those made by Folau could have on young people.
‘When people do say these hateful words like that – that you’re going to go to hell because you are different to them because of your sexuality, then that causes a lot of hurt.
‘And young people going through that difficult time in their lives when they do hear languages like that from anybody – but particularly from somebody in a position of influence like that – it can really do a lot of damage and cause a lot of hurt,’ he added.
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