Rugby league star Israel Folau’s decision not to take a knee before a game should be respected as a “personal choice,” says Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara.
Folau, who returned to rugby league last year after being sacked by Rugby Australia for a homophobic social media post, chose not to take a knee alongside his teammates and St Helens players on Sunday.
“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,” McNamara told reporters.
“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 own reasons for doing that, and we decided we would respect anyone’s personal choice on the matter.”
CNN contacted Catalans Dragons seeking comment from Folau but had not received a response at the time of publication.
As well as taking a knee, athletes have been wearing t-shirts with anti-racism slogans as sport has resumed in recent months.
Last week, Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac was the first NBA player not to stand for the National Anthem.
He later explained that he didn’t think putting on a shirt and kneeling went “hand-in-hand with supporting Black lives,” adding that the gospel can “bring us closer together.”
Folau, a devout Christian, is no stranger to controversy having been embroiled in a lengthy dispute with Rugby Australia over an Instagram post stating that “hell awaits” gay people, which ultimately led to him switching codes and returning to rugby league.
He signed a one-year contract with Catalans in January and has since made four Super League appearances, including Sunday’s 34-6 defeat by St Helens.
The Super League returned on Sunday following a four-and-a-half month hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic.