Australia’s former cricket captain Michael Clarke says athletes need to post responsibly online, after Israel Folau’s settlement with Rugby Australia has again sparked the debate around sports stars’ social media conduct.
Folau launched legal action against Rugby Australia when his four-year contract was terminated in May after he posted a meme on social media that said hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and other groups. Rugby Australia and Folau announced on Wednesday the unfair dismissal case had been settled.
Clarke said on Thursday that if you’re a sportsperson, “you’re a role model whether you like it or not”, and what you post on social media plays a big role in setting a good example.
“Well I think sport’s a lot more than what happens on the field now. To be a professional athlete, it’s 24/7. It’s on the field, off the field,” he told HuffPost Australia at the ‘Hublot Loves Summer’ event when asked about the Folau and Rugby Australia settlement.
“It’s [being] seen on TV [and] if young boys and girls can see you, you’re a role model whether you like it or not. So I think athletes need to understand that and respect that from the day you become a professional athlete, where young boys and girls can watch you, you become a role model.”
Clarke, who retired from playing professional cricket in 2015 but has continued commentating on national sport, said posting responsibly on social media is something sports stars and their fans should do.
“I think all of us, whether you’re a sportsperson or not, all of us – you need to think before you speak,” he said.
“I think my mum and dad tried to tell me that when I was about five, you know you might feel something, but it’s actually what you say. So I think, you know, I see online exactly the same. Sometimes you feel things, you write it, doesn’t mean you to need to press send,” he said.
“But at the end of the day in the same breath, I think we’re all entitled to voice our opinion and social media gives you that opportunity.”
The current co-vice-caption of the Australian cricket team, Pat Cummins, agrees, saying “there’s always going to be consequences” when sharing content on social media.
“[It’s just like any other job where you’ve got employees and brands you want to align with. You’ve got hold those values true,” he told HuffPost Australia.
“So for me, I just try and remember, me as a kid, the players I love, why did I love them? Obviously, they were great on the cricket field but also they were great role models off.”
On Thursday Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle backed the move to dismiss former Wallabies fullback Folau, following their settlement on his unfair dismissal case, calling the deal a “commercial” decision.
The decision was met with outrage online with many Twitter users accusing Rugby Australia of “selling out” and demanding Castle to resign.
While Rugby Australia apologised to Folau and his family in their statement for the difficult times they’ve been through, Castle told media on Thursday that they stand by their decision and will continue to uphold Rugby Australia’s values of inclusiveness.
“These are ultimately commercial decisions, we had to make a decision that was right for rugby in this country,” she said.
“We made the right decision in calling out Israel on his posts and on his inappropriate messaging, that remains the same, we stick to our values that inclusiveness is absolutely core to the key of rugby.”