Israel Folau’s decision not to kneel with his teammates before last weekend’s Super League match between his Catalan Dragons and St Helens was a “personal choice” that we detach from, his coach Steve McNamara declared.
The league, which continues with 11 teams this season after the Canada-based Toronto Wolfpack withdrew because of financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, viewed the Champions St Helens winning the match 34-6 behind closed doors to resume the Super League season, interrupted in March due to the current coronavirus pandemic threat.
Rugby League - Super League - St Helens v Catalans Dragons - Emerald Headingley, Leeds, Britain - August 2, 2020 Catalans Dragons' Israel Folau who stands as players kneel in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease. Image credit Action Images/Carl Recine
While his teammates took a kneel in support of the BLM movement that is inspiring many cities across the country and in remember of the victims for racial injustice, the former Australia rugby union international Folau remained standing at the Headingley ground in Leeds, England.
McNamara, the English professional rugby league football coach who is the head coach of the Catalans Dragons in the Super League and a former professional player, told reporters that “As a group of players and coaching staff, we spoke about it in-depth and as a club, we are completely against racism and all for equal opportunity.
“But there were some players and staff who made the decision not to take the knee.
“That was based on personal choice, they have their reasons for doing that, and we decided we would respect anyone’s personal choice on the matter.”
Coach Steve McNamara says he supports Israel Folau's decision to exercise his 'personal choice' in refusing to kneel. Image credit AAP
The knee protest was popularised by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 and gained considerable steam following the brutal murder of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis in May, and whose killing inspired worldwide movements and protests in demand for change and racial equality.
An empty stand at Headingley was draped in a huge banner backing the campaign, which has triggered demonstrations of support at a raft of sporting events around the world.
For Folau this is not the first time he receives critics. As a fundamentalist Christian, he joined the Dragons after being sacked by Rugby Australia last year for a social media post they considered homophobic and thus in breach of their inclusion policies.