Rugby great Israel Folau has been subjected to vile attacks on Twitter after declaring he was opposed to gay marriage.
The 28-year-old Wallabies international was simply expressing a view in line with his Pentecostal Christian faith.
‘I love and respect all people for who they are and their opinions, but personally, I will not support gay marriage,’ he tweeted to his 114,000 followers on Wednesday.
Folau, who is engaged to New Zealand netball international Maria Tutaia, was raised as a Mormon and switched to the Assemblies of God church with his family in 2011.
Despite that, the criticism on Twitter was personal, as campaigners against gay marriage express concern about religious freedom.
One man used rainbow emojis to voice his disagreement with the renowned rugby union fullback from western Sydney, who has also played professional rugby league and AFL.
‘How does this affect you in the slightest? Everyone has a right to love someone,’ one man said.
‘What a selfish view. All respect for you is now gone.’
Another man, purporting to be a Wallabies fan, used a series of swear words to express his intolerance.
‘Thanks for f***ing up my ability to cheer for you ya d***head,’ he said.
Not to be outdone, one man declared Folau’s personal view to be a reflection on him as a person.
‘Good rugby player. Bad human being. What a shame,’ he said.
One critic mocked Folau’s religious conviction.
‘God told me that acceptance and love are what she has tried to bestow upon us,’ he said.
‘Ignorance, stupidity and hate are works of the devil.’
Another man responded with a patronising message.
‘No one will force you to have a gay marriage, Izzy,’ he said.
Among the vitriol were a few words of support for an athlete expressing his personal convictions on a contentious social issue.
‘He’s entitled to his opinion like we all are,’ he said. ‘Got an issue? Vote ‘yes’.
‘Good on him for speaking his mind.’
One tweeted summed up Folau’s courage on Twitter.
‘You got some balls, Izzy,’ he said.
Not all Wallaby players oppose gay marriage.
David Pocock in 2011 declared he would delay marrying his fiance Emma Palandri until gay marriage was legalised.
Last month, he tweeted his support for redefining the Marriage Act and used a rainbow emojji to remind voters to update their electoral enrolment.
‘Australian friends, one day left to check your enrolment,’ he said on August 22.
The Wallabies’ chief sponsor Qantas supports gay marriage, with chief executive Alan Joyce lending his support to the ‘yes’ case.
Ballots are being sent out to Australian households from this week, with voters having until November 7 to fill out and return their postal vote slips.