Belfast Telegraph

Folau's online rant totally wrong, says Irish rugby star and fellow Christian Jacob

Ulster and Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale
Ulster and Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale
Australia’s Israel Folau
Jacob Stockdale with sisters Hannah and Lydia and parents June and Graham
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

Rugby star Jacob Stockdale has slammed axed Australia player Israel Folau for crossing the line with a "disrespectful" and "alienating" social media post that ended his career with the Wallabies.

Ulster and Ireland hero Stockdale, who is as well-known for his strong Christian faith as his wizardry on the wing, said Folau failed to live up to his responsibilities when he shared the controversial post on Instagram in April.

"WARNING Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists, Idolaters HELL AWAITS YOU Repent! Only Jesus Saves," it read.

The 30-year-old had his four-year AU$4m contract torn up after he refused to apologise or remove the offending post.

Despite sharing his faith, Stockdale (23) told The Irish Times that Folau was wrong from a sociological and religious point of view. "He represents Australian rugby and the Waratahs," he said.

"He has a lot of followers out there so he has a certain responsibility, as do I, not to alienate certain people in the community, to not insult people."

He said the post - which deviated slightly from Corinthians 6: 9-10 - sends out the wrong message of Christianity.

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"It preaches God is a spiteful God, a hateful God," Stockdale said. "You are going to Hell. You are going to burn in Hell.

"Realistically, God is an all-loving God. He's a forgiving God.

"Going back to Israel Folau, that's the point he missed, that's the point he didn't talk about.

"As a Christian and rugby player, it was very disappointing."

He insisted that he enjoyed discussing competing world views, but said he believed Folau went too far.

"I have no problem with someone having a different belief system to me. That's fine," Stockdale said.

"They can argue with me and tell me they don't believe what I believe. That's fine.

"I enjoy those conversations on a purely intellectual level.

"It's whenever people are not respectful of other people. That's where I draw the line - for me Israel Folau wasn't respectful of other people."

It has been reported that six of Rugby Australia's sponsors were told of an intention to sack the star before Folau was informed of his fate.

Major brands including Qantas, Vodafone, Land Rover and HSBC are said to have indicated they would discontinue their relationship with Rugby Australia if the player was not dismissed or forced to apologise.

Folau was reportedly considering deleting the Instagram post to save his lucrative rugby career, but was warned by his deeply religious father Eni that he would go to Hell if he did.

Folau is still considering his next steps following the highly publicised contract breach. It could see him launch a legal challenge against Rugby Australia in the Supreme Court.

Another option could be taking up the case with the Fair Work Commission by lodging a complaint for unlawful dismissal on religious grounds. He has until June 10 to decide.

Folau did not appeal through Rugby Australia's internal channels, citing fears that he would be treated unfairly.

"My decision not to commence Rugby Australia's appeal process is in no way an acceptance of the judicial panel's findings," Folau said in a statement last month.

"I simply do not have confidence in Rugby Australia's ability to treat me fairly or lawfully throughout this process."

But Stockdale, who has previously addressed inmates during a question and answer session at Maghaberry Prison, believes it is important not to upset fans.

"As a Christian and a professional sports person you don't want to divide people," he added.

"You don't want to alienate people.

"You want people to feel comfortable coming to watch you play rugby.

"You want people to feel comfortable coming to support you knowing why you believe and knowing what kind of person you are."

Belfast Telegraph

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