Rugby union player Israel Folaus posts about homosexuals on social media fall right in the grey zone over where to draw the line between protecting free speech and fighting bigotry. The community needs to have this debate but it wont be easy.
Mr Folau is a brilliant sportsman, having succeeded not just in rugby union but also in AFL and rugby league. His is a classic story of a state school kid from a Tongan migrant background who has rocketed to wealth and fame thanks to his sporting prowess.
Yet he believes it is his Christian duty to warn young people of the dangers of homosexuality. He entered the same sex marriage debate in 2017, announcing to his 300,000 plus Instagram followers that would vote no.
Then last year, he posted that gay people would face “HELL … Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God”. Rugby Australia reprimanded him but then, even though Mr Folau refused to express regret, the sporting code signed him up for a new multi-million-dollar four-year contract.
This month Mr Folau doubled down, posting an image that said hell awaited homosexuals and several other categories of sinners. He added the comment: "Those that are living in Sin will end up in hell unless you repent."
RA responded by starting a process to terminate Mr Folau's contract, arguing he is in breach of the sports professional code of conduct and damages its reputation.
Even though last year Mr Folau said publicly he would quit if he was made to sacrifice his religious beliefs, he announced on Wednesday he wanted to stay. His future will now be decided by a three-person professional tribunal and could end up in the courts.
At one level this is just about employment law. Many companies, including the Heralds owner Nine Entertainment, have social media policies which prevent employees posting offensive material that can damage their employers brand. RA has every reason to be concerned that Mr Folaus comments set a bad example for young players and will cost it advertising revenue and ticket sales.
Yet RA must bear some of the blame because it re-signed Mr Folau last year after his first social media post without safeguards over his use of social media. It appears the sports administrators were too keen to cash in on Mr Folaus star power.
Some libertarians might argue that corporate social media policies are an unjustified infringemenRead More – Source