Sports

Greenberg says Folau comments about gays would not be accepted in NRL

"But Id be having the one-on one conversation to talk through how that is being portrayed right now. I dont agree with Israels view, despite having a really strong relationship and affection for him as a person and player.

"All our athletes have to be careful. There are people who will read that and it will be quite damaging to them. There are young boys and girls in cities and regional areas who will read that and find it hard to deal with because Israel has a large profile. That would not have been his intent, but it is very damaging to some people."

And this is the very unfortunate problem with Folaus comments. According to many people who know him, his intention would never have been to hurt anyone. He has gay relatives and friends.

Personally, I wasnt offended by Folaus remarks. I've heard and received far worse. They will come when this column goes on-line. People are awesome.

Was Folau preaching? Hardly. He was responding to a comment about a reasonably innocuous post about the path of God. Nevertheless, the comment was made to his 339,000 Instagram followers.

Is he entitled to his view? Of course, he is. He can say whatever he wants, as abhorrently bigoted as it might seem to some.

But the naivety of Folau and his supporters who claim he has a right to “free speech” because this is his “religious belief” has been astounding. There is a corporate reality at play here that many have forgotten.

This isnt sub-districts rugby. This is professional sport and in the case of rugby a sport that needs every disenfranchised supporter it can get following the events of the past year.

Last month, RA launched its #Partofmore campaign, which says everyone is part of the rugby community. Now, it has an asterisk alongside it. Would Folau's remarks be allowable as "freedom of speech" if he'd said other people were going to hell? Indigenous Australians? Women?

Folau is the codes highest-paid player, on more than $1 million a year. He represents more than himself when he wears a gold jumper. That jumper has sponsors splashed across it, like Qantas and ASICS, and without them Folau is not earning $1 million. Without them, the sport will face-plant.

They dont have a say? Yes, they do. They pay the bills. And if you look at Folaus Instagram account you will see there are dozens of posts with him wearing these jumpers, with the logos of these companies prominently displayed.

RA has been disappointingly weak in the past few days with Folaus delicate contract negotiations obviously a factor. Surely the game is stronger than one player.

NRL clubs are interested in him. Greenberg raised the issue of Folau with club bosses this week and the response was mixed. Some clubs have told me they could not sign Folau given his views on homosexuality. Some players have gay brothers, sisters, parents, friends.

Where will all this go? Probably nowhere.

It will go back and forth and people will write shitty little comments on social media, highlighting their own bigotry or their disproportionate outrage over a shitty little remark from a sportsperson about gays going to a place that probably doesnt actually exist.

But heres something Folau could do. He could rise above it all — and talk. Not in a cryptic Instagram post but publicly and frankly. Put it all to bed, for the sake of his own reputation and that of his sport.

Let us know what youre thinking, Izzy. Its your right. Its called freedom of speech.

Indefinite article

Former Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke appeared on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph last weekend, waxing about a return to the Australian side at its time of need in a stage-managed story through his new manager/friend Nick Fordham.

Within hours of the newspaper hitting the streets, Clarke took to social media to deny the story. “This article was out of control!” he tweeted.

Im told the reason for Clarkes backflip was a sidebar story about his wife, Kyly, and her strained relationship with other WAGs. She phoned Clarke, who is in India calling the Indian Premier League, in tears.

Audio of the Clarke interview with sports editor at large, Phil “Buzz” Rothfield, on the Teles website makes it pretty clear that Clarke was talking about a potential comeback to the Australian side. It could be interpreted no other way.

Fordham says the interview wasnt his idea. The Sunday Telegraph approached him. Ive been told otherwise — twice.

He also denies that he is Clarkes manager. Just a friend. Ive been told otherwise — twice. The interview was done in Fordhams offices.

Hot water: Nathan Brown's post-match comments drew the ire of some.

Photo: NRL Photos

Private apology

Knights coach Nathan Brown is adamant he was not referring to Wayne Bennetts private life when he made his now-infamous post-match remark: “If Wayne thought with his big head rather than his little head, I wouldn't have had to rebuild the joint.”

Straight away, many people thought Brown was sledging the Broncos coach about his girlfriend, Dale Cage, who he met while coaching Newcastle and still married to his wife of 42 years, Trish.

Some thought it funny. Others reckoned it crossed the line.

Brown is yet to publicly clarify what he meant, preferring to “move on”, but he assured some very influential people at the Knights that in no way was he referring to Bennetts relationship.

He has told them he was talking about Bennetts ego, something echoed by Knights winger Nathan Ross and former forward Alex McKinnon.

Brown was mortified about the misinterpretation and promptly called Bennett and his son-in-law Ben Ikin to apologise. Says a lot about the bloke.

Out and about

SPOTTED: The great Benny Elias hooning about in his black convertible Maserati on Thursday near Moore Park.

Should have gone to Specsavers? Well, the Balmain legend was literally going to Specsavers to buy his son a new pair of prescription sunnies.

In other sporting celebrity sightings, Penrith prop James Tamou at Balmoral Beach. Clearly, he hasnt been put off by the stingray that attacked Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk last month.

The Quote

“I just left The Masters! Wyd?? 1 of the most pristine and prestigious experiences ever. Great sh!t Reed!! Good go at it Rory. U all were FA! I be bak.” — If this tweet is any indication, US rapper Lil Wayne was excited about attending the US Masters and seeing Patrick Reed win after Rory McIlroy lost his way in the final round.

Thumbs up

Kurt Fearnley. Kurt Fearnley. Kurt Fearnley. Kurt Fearnley. Kurt Fearnley. Kurt Fearnley. Kurt Fearnley. Kurt Fearnley. Kurt Fearnley. Kurt Fearnley. Kurt Fearnley. Kurt Fearnley. Kurt Fearnley. Kurt Fearnley. The three-time Paralympic gold medallist retires after Sunday's Comm Games marathon. One of our greatest sportsmen ever.

Thumbs down

I've been watching the 7.30 Report since I popped out of the womb. I have a secret crush on host Leigh Sales. But why does this esteemed program turn into A Current Affair whenever it reports rugby league? It's story about the game's so-called cocaine habit based on a set of circumstances that have been widely reported about what grossly unfair.

Its a big weekend for …

Winx, who lines up as $1.15 favourite in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick on Saturday. Last time we see her in Sydney? Unlikely but get to headquarters to see her just in case.

Its an even bigger weekend for…

Australias mens and womens sevens teams. Theyve watched and waited for a week and finally get to compete for Commonwealth Games gold up there on the Goldie. Prelims on Friday, finals on Sunday, Sea World on Monday.

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Andrew Webster

Chief Sports Writer, The Sydney Morning Herald

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