As a member of the Sports Media LGBT network, Nick Heath gives his take on Folau’s visit to Twickenham and the Rainbow Laces campaign:
This weekend both Premiership Rugby and England Rugby will support the Stonewall #RainbowLaces campaign. England players will be offered pairs to lace up into their boots but it will not be mandatory.
Disappointingly some players at Pennyhill Park today inferred that it was too much hassle to re-lace their boots for the cause.
Earlier this year, when Israel Folau made his comments that gay people would be destined for hell if they did not repent, RFU CEO Steve Brown spoke to me when I reported for RugbyPass saying, “There literally is no place for that kind of attitude. There is a responsibility when you put that shirt on, it’s not just about being an elite performer. It’s about representing your country and I believe most rugby players know that.”
When asked whether players should be mindful of keeping some beliefs at home rather than publicly declaring them, Brown was even more clear, “I’d like to hope they didn’t believe it at home either. The most important thing is that we have people with the right moral values and approach the spirit and inclusivity of our game, which is kind of what it’s all about anyway, with the right mindset.”
This week ahead of the visit of Australia, I asked the RFU if they felt comfortable welcoming a player such as Folau to Twickenham this weekend, given their CEO’s stance on such comments. An RFU spokeswoman replied: “We are not going to discuss individual players and their beliefs but we are big supporters of the Rainbow Laces campaign and inclusion in rugby and you will see support for the campaign and the cause on the day at Twickenham.”
Overall, it’s probably best that one person’s detestable views are not met with another negative from an organisation that wishes to help promote acceptance and inclusivity.
Although it promotes a certain irony that while Folau in his deeply Christian beliefs is condemning homosexuals to hell, England’s governing body is showing more tolerance and inclusion to him than he affords to those who simply love who they love, irrelevant of gender.
Wishing Israel a rainbow-filled day on Saturday.
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