‘Rugby union is for everyone’: Brisbane Hustlers respond to Israel Folau

brisbane hustlers rugby team at Bingham Cup 2018
Photo: Dale Napier

Wallabies player Israel Folau’s latest social media outburst should be met with indifference and we should instead celebrate the progress made towards inclusion in sport across Australia, writes Brisbane Hustlers president Jason Garrick.

Rugby union is a sport for everyone. It is also a sport that can bring a person fame, fortune and build a platform of influence if you work hard enough.

The issue we are facing today is the use of that platform to divide, marginalise and disempower. I find myself asking, “Where do we go from here?”

If you’re reading this article, you’ve read about Israel Folau’s latest social media post. I’m not going to repeat what he said.

It isn’t helpful and I don’t want to say all the reasons it is hurtful. Again.

The LGBTIQA+ community wasn’t the only community targeted in the past weeks by Mr Folau, but we are a community that experiences disproportionately poorer mental health outcomes which have been directly linked to lived experiences of stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse.

I don’t hate views like these. I’m actually indifferent towards them. Hate gets us nowhere.

Indifference changes the power dynamic when we have these conversations as a community.

I’m challenging you to find a way to be indifferent towards Mr Folau’s words. We’ve seen it before. We’ll see it again.

We could substitute his name for whoever the next person is who puts homophobic remarks up on their social media.

I ask that we instead take a moment to celebrate the monumental achievements of the inclusive rugby union movement in the past few years and celebrate the work of advocates and allies.

Let’s celebrate that Super Rugby’s Melbourne Rebels have partnered with Monash University in 2019 to stamp out homophobic slurs in all sport.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate the Brisbane Hustlers and Queensland Reds’ partnership in hosting the 2019 Purchas Cup in September.

Let’s jump up and down that we have prominent players and former players all championing the message of inclusion, wearing rainbow laces and supporting their local inclusive rugby clubs (Brendan Cannon – looking at you mate!).

Let’s get pumped that we have a Super Rugby Women’s competition.

Let’s find out how we can support the modified rugby program that creates opportunities for children and young people with disabilities participate in team sport and brings them into their local rugby club community.

Rugby is evolving and we should be celebrating these great things about our sport.

It is an exciting time to be involved in rugby union. LGBTIQA+ inclusion in sport absolutely has a way to go and it is important that there are individuals and organisations investing time, resources and money into finding ways to overcome barriers to participation.

Rugby union is a sport where the label you have, whether placed on you by you or someone else, is and will always be irrelevant.

You will instead be defined by what you do and how you do it on and off the field.

Rugby union will welcome you, that is where we go from here.

Jason Garrick is president of the Brisbane Hustlers gay and inclusive rugby club. To find out more about the Hustlers, visit their website or find them on Facebook here.

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