OPINION: Time to stop giving Israel Folau airtime

OPINION: I'm Folau'd out. 

I’ve had it up to my gay eye-balls listening to the rants, listening to his supporters, listening to him.

Most of all, giving him and his views airtime.

I have Folau-fatigue, and I know I’m not the only one.

Every fibre of my camp being is screaming out. I am a dragon breathing a fiery rainbow and I have had enough.

And yet here I am, talking about Folau, once again.


Why are we giving this man the power? Why are we adding weight to his homophobic rhetoric? Why is it that we are feeding into the black-Folau-hole?

I am over it.

Yet I find myself on this Tuesday morning, needing to defend myself. For some reason, I feel attacked. I feel like my community is under judgement once again, and it sucks. 

I’m worried for those who are at-risk. I’m worried for those who will wake up feeling invigorated and powerful from what He Who Shall Not Be Named has achieved. I’m worried about what a small percentage of those people might do with that feeling. 

So here is my final thing I have to say on this, and believe me, you will not hear me say anything about He Who Shall Not Be Named, again.

In April, Folau posted a photo on Instagram which said all drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters would go to hell. 

His contract with Rugby Australia was subsequently terminated after he refused to remove the post and was found in breach of the organisation's professional players' code of conduct.

In June, Folau began a GoFundMe page to crowdfund money for "legal action", calling the termination of his contract "unlawful". The page raised over AUS$630,000 (NZ$664,051) before it was shut down on Monday afternoon.

It’s been touted as a debate around freedom of speech.

It’s not, and to argue so is incredibly misguided. Frankly, it’s a total spit in the face for the LGBT community.

What would we do or say about someone who decided to start talking about their belief about why women shouldn’t have rights, should be paid less, and perhaps not even work at all. Of course, it’s just that person’s opinion, it’s their freedom of speech, so surely they would be allowed to say those types of things, right? 

This is not an over-reaction either.

No one is ‘beating up’ on He Who Shall Not Be Named, and that’s coming from someone who was beaten up for being one of ‘those’ people He Who Shall Not Be Named says will go to hell.

You can’t truly understand unless you’ve been one of those people who have been ‘randomly’ searched at an airport. A person who has had a gay slur thrown at them to bring them down. A person who has been marginalised if not for a split second because of who they are, where they come from, or what they look like. 

It is no secret an overwhelming body of evidence shows that the rainbow population has significantly poorer mental health, and is at much higher risk of suicide than other people living in New Zealand.

A report commissioned and published as part of the Ministry of Health's suicide prevention research fund found that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people have a higher lifetime risk for mental health problems including depression, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, substance misuse and eating disorders.

Do you know what causes that increased risk? 

Discrimination and exclusion. Sound familiar? 

With that said, what do you think is going to happen to those at-risk rainbow youth when they hear a person of such power, such stance, such profile, spouting they will be going to hell on a platform such as his? 

What do you think is going to happen to those at-risk youth, when they see others out there have paid over $700,000 to support He Who Shall Not Be Named, and a fight HE got himself into?

Facts are facts.

He Who Shall Not Be Named had the platform he had because of Rugby Australia. He wouldn’t have had it any other way. He was in a position of power. He was in a position of influence. He was a leader to thousands, perhaps millions. But he abused it. 

He violated the terms and conditions to that platform, and as a result, was dealt with accordingly.

He then pursued legal action, and used another platform (which prides itself on helping sick children and families in need) to try and find his own legal fees. He who owns eight properties and was one of the highest paid rugby players of all time.

Once again, he violated the terms and conditions of that platform too, and what happened? He was dealt with accordingly.

Sure, freedom of speech is one thing, I’m a massive believer in that. But whatever happened to understanding that with great power comes great responsibility? Have we forgotten how important language matters? Sure we don’t live in a world where anything goes? And if so how far can we push it? Do boundaries exist or can we start acting on our freedom of speech too? 

I am over the same argument from the same people. It’s boring, it’s soul-destroying, and it isn’t achieving anything other than creating more harm. 

I ask you to think back to something I spoke about a while back when He Who Shall Not Be Named first made his comments. I want you to imagine a 14-year-old boy, a super Wallabies fan, who is gay, and plays rugby has seen what’s been said by his idol, and others in the media. How do you think that is going to make him feel? His life will be forever changed, and not in a good way. He’s just read he is going to hell. He’s just seen that others have supported that cause, or rather, ‘freedom of speech’. 

So there it is.

I'm even more Folau'd out than when I started.

Which is why I won’t be giving He Who Shall Not Be Named airtime again. 

Aziz Al-Sa'afin is The AM Show producer/reporter.