Listen: Anti-LGBTQ Rugby Player Israel Folau 'Bombarded' with Gay Porn on Team's WhatsApp

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday February 15, 2021
Originally published on February 6, 2021

A teammate pranked anti-LGTBQ rugby player Israel Folau, bombarding the disgraced Australian athlete with gay porn on the team's WhatsApp, a coach said in an anecdote he shared during a radio interview.

League coach Andrew Webster regaled a sports host Matty Johns with the tale during a chat on an Australian radio show, Rugbypass reports.

Referring to Folau's having signed with French team the Catalan Dragons after losing his multi-million dollar contract with Rugby Australia (along with his lucrative endorsement deals) due to a series of anti-LGTBQ posts on social media, Webster told Johns that when Folau "first joined Catalans, he joined the players' WhatsApp group. And [Catalans teammate] Jimmy Maloney, God love him, couldn't help himself and started bombarding him with gay pornography."

Jimmy Maloney, also known by the sobriquet "Jimmy the Joker," noted UK newspaper the Daily Mail.

Australian outlet 7 News said that "Folau took the jab in his stride" and noted that the disgraced player had considered continuing with the Catalan Dragons after the end of his yearlong contract.

Folau decided to return to Australia, though, and had been in talks with another team - the St George Illawarra Dragons - about rejoining the Australian rugby fold.

Those talks, however, evaporated in the heat of a backlash from fans not eager to see Folau return after a contentious saga that saw him torch his career with homophobic social media messages, and then double down with anti-LGTBQ church sermons.

Folau was fired in 2019 for repeated infractions of the code of conduct of both his team and Rugby Australia. Claiming "persecution" based on his Christian beliefs, Folau brought suit against Rugby Australia, which maintained that Folau - like any other player under contract - was expected to abide by the rules. Eventually, Rugby Australia settled with Folau, who extended an apology as part of the settlement's terms.

Folau's prospects remain unclear. The St George Illawarra Dragons issued a release in which the team verified that "the Dragons did enquire about signing Folau," but then confirmed that "such discussions have now ceased."

Listen to the radio clip below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.