With the furore over reported statements and social media comments, Australian rugby player Israel Folau is under enormous pressure for his public opinion, that have placed his future under incredible scrutiny and pressure over their context and insensitivity.
Rugby Australia and the New South Wales (NSW) Waratahs/Rugby Union will all be present at a meeting Tuesday, to discuss the matter with the player.
Known for his Christian beliefs, he has once again acted out of line to the policy of his employer; the Australian Rugby Union (Rugby Australia), and many of the games sponsors and stakeholders.
Israel Folau under enormous pressure for Public statements
The news is two-fold. One is as a representative of the franchise/State and club. Those guidelines are set out in the players individual terms, and the collective contract for Wallaby players.
So in the same way that if he were a media personality or actor, Folau is in the public eye, and therefore is a representative of the sport [or industry] that he works in. So it reflects on Rugby Australia, and therefore onto that organizations sponsors and the stakeholders of the game.
— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) April 9, 2018
Whilst his right to a freedom of expression is protected, the teams and Folau’s own sponsors will want to question what made him comment, and how damaging it can be to the policy and marketing of rugby values.
In business and in the workplace, opinions must be kept to yourself, as to not ‘paint the employer with the same stick’ – and Tuesday’s meeting will address that.
Public reaction see’s Israel Folau comments as ‘Offensive’
Secondly, and more vehemently, is the public reaction. Mostly about the contents of a recent tweet, including a reply to one person that many have taken offence to.
Doesn't quite fit with Israel Folau's "I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions" line from last year. pic.twitter.com/A023XnxRBd
— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) April 3, 2018
The original social media post has since been deleted, but commentators soon shared the evidence, and the reaction went ‘viral’. And not in any positive way, because the views of one person may always be in conflict with another. But when you are both a public figure, and a representative of a body like Rugby Australia, those actions are magnified.
So with that Twitter reaction, and the previous comments on social media by Folau about same sex marriage, the advise will surely be ‘do not add to the furore, and please do not post opinions in the future’. Although his last tweet was a simply message, including a verse from the Bible.
Note: Last Word on Rugby will follow-up on the outcome of the meeting, and any comments from the player, or his agent.
Social commentary, and the power of Twitter
In many ways, the Twitter use of public figures has been skewed recently, with the President of the United States using it as a ‘public palpit’. His insatiable comments and unrestricted aim at topics and public subjects – at times, at odds with the American people – – has not shaded the fact, comments can be hurtful.
Both the gay community, supporters of same sex marriage and civil rights commentators, have used Folau to further the argument of how hurtful it can be. And vice versa, others have wanted to support the rugby player, and the Christian beliefs he upholds.
In summary, it has seen many, many people weigh in on the argument. From Welsh International referee Nigel Owens, to former Wallabies coach Alan Jones. Former players, like highly regarded writer Peter Fitzsimmons. He said;
“Israel Folau’s comments are an anathema to the greatest of rugby’s values”.
The consensus in the media has been, that Israel Folau will get a grilling from Rugby Australia. He will also still feel the wrath from the public. That aspect may hit hardest, and last for some time.
When the news of the outcome from the meeting is announced, Rugby Australia will also importantly need to support the player. His contract is up soon, so negotiations would also be a factor. If any action were taken from either the NSW Waratahs (in Super Rugby) or by Rugby Australia, then it will need to satisfy stakeholders of the sport, and the public; both sides of the argument.
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