Folau remained standing while his teammates and the opposition took a knee before kick-off in deference to the Black Lives Matter movement. The move by Folau caused a stir among some journalists covering the game and sparked largely negative responses on social media. He soon began trending on Twitter in the UK.
Guardian journalist Aaron Bower wrote: “St Helens and Catalans players take the knee before kick-off: but noticeably Israel Folau did NOT join the rest of the players in doing so. Wow.”
Dragons head coach Steve McNamara addressed the issue after the game, saying: “As a whole club we are completely against racism and for equal opportunity. Some players and staff chose not to take the knee – that was personal choice and as a group we respected personal choice.”
While many attacked Folau for refusing the kneel, others defended the move and the player from those lambasting the ex-Wallaby.
Folau is no stranger to controversy of course. The 31-year-old had an acrimonious break-up with Rugby Australia in 2019 for writing anti-gay posts on social media. A Christian, Folau argued that the subsequent termination of his contract was a case of religious discrimination. They settled out of court.
Unable to pick up a contract in union amid the fallout in Australia, Folau opted to make the switch back to league, albeit on a different continent with Catalan Dragons.