Gay rugby player Keegan Hirst has said he feels “let down” by Catalan’s Dragons signing of rugby union star Israel Folau.
Folau was dismissed by Rugby Australia for social media posts in April 2019, in which he stated “Hell Awaits” homosexuals. His signing by the Dragons is a one year deal with the Super League Club.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Wednesday morning Keegan Hirst, said the decision is “disappointing and frustrating”. He went to state that had this been an issue around racism, he felt that the decision would have been different and that once again, homophobia feels like a “lesser prejudice”.
Super League say “strict guidelines are in place” should Folau repeat comments and Folau has said that he “acknowledged the views expressed by Super League and the Rugby Football League”.
“I’m a proud Christian, my beliefs are personal, my intention is not to hurt anyone and I will not be making further public comment about them,” he added.
During a studio interview on this morning’s programme, Hirst added that the decision to sign Folau: “endorses what he says and opens the door to people with similar opinions and views to come into the game.”
Catalans Dragons‘ season-opening game is at home against Huddersfield on Saturday.
BBC presenters Louise Minchin and Dan Walker asked Hirst if Folau’s tweets, which he claimed were an expression of faith, were an acceptable form of ‘free speech’. Hirst went on to state “The line is crossed when people use religious or political beliefs for prejudices and the thing that is disappointing about this is if what he’d said had been about race or another religion then this wouldn’t even be being discussed,”
Hirst also revealed Catalans coach Steve McNamara called him to explain the decision.
“He said he was giving me a call out of respect, but I kind of brushed that to one side, because if that was the case, he wouldn’t have signed him. I told him I felt there was two things going on. Either Catalans didn’t care what he said which was worrying, or they did care, but they were willing to put their values to one side for a few extra tries a year and a couple of extra league places”.
Folau sued Rugby Australia for £7.4m, arguing he was a victim of religious discrimination. Rugby Australia were accused of backtracking on their original decision in reaching an disclosed financial settlement with Folau in December.
Response to the decision to sign Folau has been quick, with out Gay former player Gareth Thomas stating that he would not watch him (Folau).
Wigan Warriors announced that their round eight game against Catalans Dragons on March 22nd, would now be a “Pride Day” in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
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