Gay rugby referee Nigel Owens has urged Israel Folau to judge him on his character rather than sexuality.
The 29-year-old Australian rugby star caused controversy after claiming that all gay people will go to Hell unless they repent their sins to God on an Instagram comment.
But now Owens – who came out over a decade ago after struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and tried to kill himself when he was 24 – warned the rugby player about his use of language.
While appearing on the Unfiltered podcast, Owens said: “When you’re in a position of privilege like that, there comes a responsibility with the way you convey those beliefs.
“For me, it’s trying to get those people to understand – look, me being gay is not a choice.
“There are young people out there taking their own lives, feeling like I did. And that’s what I wish people would think about and the way they convey their opinions and I wish they would try and understand that everybody’s different.
“Judge me and other gay people, judge them on the content of their character, not their sexuality.”
Folau’s comments have been opposed by a number of fellow rugby players including All Blacks stars TJ Perenara and Brad Weber.