New Zealand Rugby has reiterated its commitment to diversity and inclusion in the wake of the controversial comments made by Australian rugby player Israel Folau.
"New Zealand Rugby is committed to Diversity and Inclusion, and welcomes people from all walks of life. We respect that people have different views and beliefs, however expect that any opinions and views are expressed in a respectful way," an Instagram posted today states.
Folau used a Players' Voice column to further voice his strong religious beliefs after posting on Instagram two weeks ago that gays were headed for "HELL" unless they repent their sins and turn to God.
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle yesterday opted against sanctioning Folau, but it remains to be seen if the code-hopping superstar will remain in the game next year.
Off contract at year's end, Folau also said he was prepared to walk away from rugby if RA felt his views were "hurting" the rugby community.
"Israel clearly articulated his religious beliefs and why his faith is important to him and has provided context behind his social media comment," Castle said in a statement."He did not intend to upset people intentionally or bring hurt to the game. We accept Israel's position."
Last night Chiefs halfback Brad Weber became the first Super Rugby star to publicly criticise Folau for his comments.
"Kinda sick of us players staying quiet on some of this stuff. I can't stand that I have to play this game that I love with people, like Folau, who say what he's saying," Weber tweeted.
"My cousin and her partner, and my Aunty and her partner are some of the most kind, caring & loving people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. To think that I play against someone that says they'll go to Hell for being gay disgusts me," Weber added.
Meanwhile, Netball New Zealand chief executive Jennie Wyllie said her organisation had spoken with Folau's wife, star Silver Fern shooter Maria Folau, about the issue.
Maria Folau told them the controversy surrounding her hadn't been a distraction during the team's failed Commonwealth Games campaign.
The Silver Ferns shooter last week posted an online message supportive of her husband. "Stand with God no matter what ... Don't be afraid to stand up for the truth, even if that means you will be standing alone," she wrote.
Wyllie wouldn't comment on Maria Folau's post but stressed NNZ's perspective hadn't changed.
"We value inclusion and diversity whether it's gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, religion, and we take our responsibility as role models for young New Zealanders very seriously," she said.
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- With AAP