RA accepts Folau meant no harm to rugby with anti-gay remark
SYDNEY, April 17 (Reuters) - Rugby Australia (RA) said on Tuesday they had accepted Israel Folou's position that he did not mean to harm the game with his anti-gay remarks posted on social media earlier this month and confirmed that he would face no sanction.
Folau, who is an Evangelical Christian, created a firestorm of controversy in Australia, and in rugby circles, after he wrote on his Instagram page that gays would be condemned to "hell" if they failed to "repent".
His comments were described as "very disappointing" by Qantas airlines, a major sponsor of Rugby Australia, while international referee Nigel Owens, who came out as gay in 2007, said such comments could contribute to young people taking their own lives.
In a column on Monday, Folau explained his rationale for making the remarks and said he had offered to walk away from the sport if RA found itself in an untenable position with sponsors and fans.
RA Chief Executive Raelene Castle, who met with Folau last week to discuss the issue, issued a statement on Tuesday saying the player would not face any sanction from her organisation.
"In his article, 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 his own words, Israel said that he did not intend to upset people intentionally or bring hurt to the game. We accept Israel's position."
One of the nation's top players and most marketable athletes, Folau's contract expires at the end of the season and RA are keen to extend it beyond next year's World Cup in Japan.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)