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All Black Vaea Fifita 'likes' latest Israel Folau anti-gay outburst
Israel Folau's latest homophobic outburst may have rugby repercussions on this side of the Tasman, with All Blacks flanker Vaea Fifita among the first to 'like' the social media post.
The Wallabies superstar took to Instagram on Wednesday night, claiming hell awaited "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters", unless they repented.
He also slammed the Tasmania state government for making gender optional on birth certificates.
Fifita indicated his tacit approval of the sentiments with a 'like', which has New Zealand Rugby (NZR) trying to distance itself from the message, without totally throwing its player under the bus.
"New Zealand Rugby does not share the views expressed by Israel Folau, as they do not represent the values of rugby," said its statement.
Vaea Fifita was one of the first to 'like' Folau's post.
"However, we understand that people have their own views and beliefs, which we believe should be expressed in a respectful manner."
It didn't clarify whether it thought a social media 'like' was a respectful manner.
NZR made history two years ago, when it became the first - and so far only - New Zealand sporting organisation to earn the Rainbow Tick for inclusion and diversity.
It also produced a powerful promotional video, with several All Blacks wearing rainbow-inspired black jerseys.
At the very least, Fifita's twitchy finger should cause some raised eyebrows across the Hurricanes dressing room this week.
Almost exactly 12 months ago, Folau expressed similar sentiments, when he was asked on Instagram 'what was God's plan for gay people??'
Among those strongly condemning his homophobic response was All Blacks and Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara, who is outspoken on a range of social issues.
"Let it go on the record that I am 100 percent against the comments that were made by Israel," he tweeted at the time. "It was not OK to say that.
"It's not an attitude I want to see in the game I love. There is no justification for such harmful comments."
This time, Perenara responded by simply sharing a post from former Welsh captain Gareth Thomas, who came out as gay in 2009.
I don’t write this with hate or anger after Israel Folau’s comments.I write with sympathy. To everyone who reads it, don’t be influenced by his words. Be the better person and be YOU. Whoever YOU is..Hell doesn’t await YOU.Happiness awaits YOU.
2:10 AM - Apr 11, 2019
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"I don't write this with hate or anger after Israel Folau's comments. I write with sympathy," the 44-year-old wrote. "To everyone who reads it, don't be influenced by his words.
"Be the better person and be YOU, whoever YOU is. Hell doesn't await YOU, happiness awaits YOU."