'Kids are killing themselves': NRL's first openly gay player Ian Roberts blasts Israel Folau

Rugby league's first openly gay male has stressed there must be consequences for Israel Folau's homophobic outbursts.

Former NRL great Ian Roberts sympathises with the Wallabies star's plight, but believes his public stance against homosexuality has been extremely harmful.

Speaking to Australia's Channel Nine, Roberts expressed his concern over the toll Folau's social media posts would have on young gay women and men in particular.

"I don't say this lightly, what I'm about to say," Roberts said. "The language I use is hard and it's for a point - it's to get that message across.

"There are literally [gay] kids in the suburbs killing themselves.

"I say that with the greatest sense of respect and I'm not implying that Israel's responsible solely for that, please don't take it that way.

"But it's these types of comments and these off-the-cuff remarks, when you have young people and vulnerable people - kids in the suburbs - who are dealing with their sexuality.

"[They're] confused, not knowing how to deal with it, these type of remarks... can and do push [kids and] people over the edge."

The 194-game veteran came out as gay in 1995, while still playing, becoming the first elite rugby league player in the world to do so.

On Saturday, Folau fronted an independent three-man panel to decide his fate, as his rugby career hangs in the balance.

The code-of-conduct hearing continued through Sunday, with reports suggesting the 30-year-old's legal team turned down a $1 million payout.

As debate continued around Folau's future, French sporting magazine L'Equipe has released a special edition, featuring an image of two male water polo players kissing on its cover.

The issue focuses on homophobia in sport and under the large image, it has a prominent title saying: 'Kiss whomever you like'.


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