Israel Folau is copping it from all angles.
Israel Folau is copping it from all angles.

Iconic magazine fights against homophobia in sport

If his Australian contract is torn up, Israel Folau might want to think twice about heading to French rugby.

As the Wallabies and Waratahs star squares off with Rugby Australia in a code of conduct hearing this weekend to decide his fate after his homophobic Instagram post, he may have one eye on other options should RA win the legal battle and sack him.

Playing in France is an attractive and lucrative option for many Australian rugby stars, particularly later in their careers, but Folau shouldn't expect the red carpet welcome if he ever steps off a plane and into the terminal at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport.

The owner of rugby club Toulon has already labelled the 30-year-old a "moron" and now famous French sports publication L'Equipe has delivered a brutal message to Folau and anyone else who thinks anti-gay sentiment has a place in sport.

In its weekly magazine released this weekend, L'Equipe dedicated a special edition to champion sport's fight against homophobia. The front cover featured a spectacular photo of two male water polo players - from a film - kissing each other and the title read: "Kiss whoever you want."

The issue features pieces on the 2018 homophobic assault of former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas, the tragic tale of openly gay footballer Justin Fashanu, who took his own life aged 37, and the success of gay French shot putter Laurence Manfredi.

In its editorial, the magazine also takes aim at "the stream of abject words, uttered, among others, by a well known Australian rugby player".

In a section titled "Homophobia: A season of hate", Folau comes in for another mention as L'Equipe brings to light some of the anti-gay incidents to have plagued sport in recent times.

Among the shame file is boxer Adrien Broner threatening to kill gay people in a video posted on social media, the bizarre world of interviewing at the NFL combine where prospects are sometimes asked if they are gay and French football icon Patrice Evra being investigated by Paris prosecutors for making homophobic remarks towards Paris Saint-Germain after a shock Champions League defeat to his former club Manchester United.

 

 

And then there's Folau, who L'Equipe says has contributed to a "social and cultural crisis" engulfing the Wallabies just months out from the World Cup, pointing to the disconnect between Pacific Island players who have supported Folau and religious freedom, and other teammates who have voiced their disappointment at the dual international for bringing this scandal upon them.

Folau is a devout Christian who said in his social media post "hell awaits" gay people unless they repent for their "sins", and given that context, it's especially sobering to read the words of Fashanu, who left a suicide note which was referenced in the L'Equipe article.

A born-again Christian, the footballer's last thoughts read: "I hope the Jesus I love welcomes me home. I will finally find peace there."

Manfredi, a two-time Olympian, even suggests her sexuality helped her reach the levels she did, saying: "Would I have beaten the French record if I wasn't gay?"

The cover image is particularly striking, featuring two characters from the film The Shiny Shrimps - a movie which follows the fortunes of a gay water polo team - locking lips.

The photo was taken by Roberto Frankenberg, who said: "To illustrate this sensitive issue, I tried several frames and several postures with them, especially underwater.

"But after taking this photo, it jumped out at me.

"Beyond the homosexual kiss, its poetry comes from the reimagining of a sporting duel, a gesture of confrontation, which brings a second sense to the reading."

Folau's landmark code of conduct hearing will continue today after almost eight hours of legal jousting wasn't enough to resolve the dual international's bitter dispute with Rugby Australia on Saturday.

News Corp Australia

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