All Black TJ Perenara is the latest high-profile rugby player to criticise Australian star Israel Folau for his comments on homosexuality, saying there is "no justification for such harmful comments".
Perenara has joined top-level referee Nigel Owens and Chiefs halfback Brad Weber in firing back at the Wallabies player's views.
Folau, who is a devout Christian and was raised as a Mormon, posted to social media that gays are headed for hell unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.
In a series of tweets this evening, Perenara said he was "100 percent" against the comments and said it was not okay to say that.
"It's not an attitude I want to see in the game I love. There is no justification for such harmful comments."
He said anyone struggling with their identity, and young Māori/Pasifika people in particular, should seek help if they needed it.
"You are perfect as you are. Do not let these comments keep you from being yourself. Polynesia has been sexually diverse since forever."
I’d like to add my voice to the conversation currently taking place. As professional rugby players, whether we like it or not, we are role models for a lot of young people. Notably, young Māori and Pasifika people.— Tj Perenara (@Tj_Perenara) April 18, 2018
You don’t need to look far to know that young Māori/PI are overrepresented in youth suicide statistics and, as I understand it, even more so when you look to those who are part of the Rainbow community. Comments that cause further harm cannot be tolerated.— Tj Perenara (@Tj_Perenara) April 18, 2018
Let it go on record that I am 100% against the comments that were made by Israel. It was not ok to say that. It’s not an attitude I want to see in the game I love. There is no justification for such harmful comments.— Tj Perenara (@Tj_Perenara) April 18, 2018
To anyone, young Māori/Pasifika people especially, who may be struggling with their identity - please know that it is ok to be you. You are perfect as you are. Do not let these comments keep you from being yourself. Polynesia has been sexually diverse since forever.— Tj Perenara (@Tj_Perenara) April 18, 2018
Earlier, rugby's highest-profile referee Nigel Owens urged Folau to judge him on his personality rather than his homosexuality.
A referee of more than 150 international matches, Welshman Owens has condemned Folau's view that gay people are destined for hell unless they repent their "sins".
Owens came out publicly in 2007 after attempting suicide at the age of 24, having struggled to come to terms with his sexuality.
The 46-year-old stressed devout Christian Folau is entitled to his beliefs but suggested the comment would have been unhelpful during his difficult time.
"When you're in a position of privilege like that, there comes a responsibility with the way you convey those beliefs," Owens told the Unfiltered podcast.
"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."
With Rugby Australia deciding not to sanction Folau, any push against his anti- gay views could now come from rugby's rank-and-file.
One-Test All Black Weber suggested he could no long remain silent on the issue.
"Kinda sick of us players staying quiet on some of this stuff," Weber tweeted.
"I can't stand that I have to play this game that I love with people, like Folau, who say what he's saying.
"My cousin and her partner, and my aunty and her partner are some of the most kind, caring and loving people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
"To think that I play against someone that says they'll go to Hell for being gay disgusts me."
Two weeks after making the comment on Instagram, Folau doubled down in a column on Monday in which he revealed he offered to walk away from his RA contract in the wake of his controversy.
"This is not about money or bargaining power or contracts. It's about what I believe in and never compromising that, because my faith is far more important to me than my career and always will be," Folau told the Players' Voice website.
- RNZ / AAP