Israel Folau decides not to take a knee during anti-racism protest

LONDON – Israel Folau controversially refused to take a knee before Catalans Dragons Super League game against St Helens on Sunday.

Players from both teams marked the return of rugby league behind-closed-doors at Headingley by taking a stance against racism, as they joined referee Ben Thaler in dropping to one knee for a few seconds in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Folau was the only player to elect to stand.

Folau, 31, was sacked from his Rugby Australia contract last year for saying ‘hell awaits’ gay people and Catalans’ decision to sign him led to widespread opposition.Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara has since defended his player’s actions at Headingley.

“As a group of players and coaching staff, we spoke about it in depth and as a club we are completely against racism and all for equal opportunity,” McNamara said.

“But there were some players and staff who made the decision not to take the knee.

“That was based on personal choice, they have their own reasons for doing that, and we decided we would respect anyone’s personal choice on the matter.”

Folau was unable to make his mark on the game as Catalans lost 34-6 to the reigning champions in the opening game of a double-header at Headingley which marked the resumption of Super League.

In May 2019 the full-back had his £2million contract ripped up after Rugby Australia took the ‘painful’ decision to sack him for claiming ‘hell awaits’ gay people.

The fundamentalist Christian showed little remorse after his four-year contract was terminated, and he consequently missed out on Australia’s World Cup campaign in Japan.

Rugby Australia chief executive, Raelene Castle said: “While Rugby Australia accepts the panel’s decision directing termination of Israel Folau’s playing contract for his high-level breach of the Code of Conduct, we want to stress that this outcome is a painful situation for the game.

“Rugby Australia did not choose to be in this situation, but Rugby Australia’s position remains that Israel, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue this course of action.

“This has been an extremely challenging period for Rugby and this issue has created an unwanted distraction in an important year for the sport and for the Wallabies team.

“But our clear message to all rugby fans today is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork.

“I’ve communicated directly with the players to make it clear that Rugby Australia fully supports their right to their own beliefs and nothing that has happened changes that. But when we are talking about inclusiveness in our game, we’re talking about respecting differences as well.”

Daily Mail

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