Netball’s Israel Folau?

New South Wales Swifts Super Netball shooter Samantha Wallace-Joseph, a Christian, has been forced to apologise for a social media post in which she was critical of the endorsement of Easter Sunday as ‘Transgender Day of Visibility’ by the United States President Joe Biden.

Wallace-Joseph objected to the day overshadowing Easter Sunday and the official endorsement of it and tweeted: “The disrespect is crazy. Don’t play with GOD”.

In echoes of the response to Israel Folau’s social media tweets quoting the Bible, Wallace-Joseph ended up deleting the social media post and issuing an apology.

Following an emergency meeting between Wallace-Joseph and the Swift club, Wallace released a joint statement with the club:

“I did not wish to cause any offence to members of the transgender community, and it is clear that I have and for that, I am sorry”.

Netball Australia is reportedly investigating whether the post breached the sport’s code of conduct, and together with the Super Netball League has issued an official statement:

“Netball Australia and the Suncorp Super Netball League are committed to embracing diversity and ensuring the sport is welcoming and safe for everyone who wants to participate, including members of the LGBTIQA+ community”.

However, while Netball Australia claims it is committed to inclusivity for all, this inclusion evidently does not extend to netball players with views that differ from those of the prevailing narrative.  Ms Wallace-Joseph was required to delete a personal social media post, even though it was an expression of her own Christian faith, about an issue that she felt strongly about. There is no inclusion of her views in this situation. Instead, management at the club have affirmed their commitment to the “ongoing education required to ensure there is a common understanding among all of the cultures and communities that make up the Swifts”.

Regrettably, people of faith are increasingly finding themselves penalised or reprimanded for speaking up publicly against what Associate Professor Neil Foster refers to as the “sexual orthodoxy”, where disagreement is ‘heresy’. Or as commentator Adam Creighton has observed, “celebrate, or else!” is increasingly the message.

The outcome of Netball Australia's investigation into the matter is still uncertain. In any case, the treatment of Ms Wallace-Joseph (as in the case of other high-profile athletes like Israel Folau and the Manly 7 rugby players) will no doubt achieve its intended purpose – to dissuade other players from publicly proclaiming their faith or from deviating from a wholehearted celebration of the sexual orthodoxy.

Unfortunately Ms Wallace-Joseph’s situation is becoming all too common for many ordinary Australians who feel unable to express their faith publicly. This is why HRLA is committed to defending and representing the rights of people of faith in Australia to freely and peaceably practise their faith.