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Rugby Australia to terminate Israel Folau’s contract after anti-gay remark

Rugby Australia to terminate Israel Folau’s contract after anti-gay remark

Rugby Australia set to terminate Israel Folau's contract.

Rugby Australia released a statement today (11 April) with details to terminate star player Israel Folau’s contract after a recent anti-gay remark.

Folau took to Instagram on Wednesday (10 April) to post a meme stating ‘hell awaits’ homosexuals.

Now, in a joint statement from Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle and NSW chief executive Andrew Hore, they slammed Folau for his post and refusal to return their calls.

‘In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract,’ they said in the statement. ‘Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union have made repeated attempts to contact Israel both directly and via his representatives since 6.30pm on Wednesday.

‘At this point, he has failed to communicate directly with either organisation,’ the statement read.

Rugby player Israel Folau
Rugby player Israel Folau | Picture: Instagram (@izzyfolau)

The two chief executives then continued: ‘Whilst Israel is entitled to his religious beliefs, the way in which he has expressed these beliefs is inconsistent with the values of the sport. We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts.

‘Israel has failed to understand that the expectation of him as a Rugby Australia and NSW Waratahs employee is that he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality.

‘Rugby is a sport that continuously works to unite people. We want everyone to feel safe and welcome in our game and no vilification based on race, gender, religion or sexuality is acceptable and no language that isolates, divides or insults people based on any of those factors can be tolerated.

‘As a code we have made it clear to Israel formally and repeatedly that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action,’ the statement read.

‘Discrimination has no place in our sport’

Folau recently re-signed his contract until the end of the 2022 season, with both Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs.

He will have his $4 million (US$2.9 million) contract torn up if he does not respond to repeated attempts to contact him. He also needs to provide ‘compelling mitigating factors’ as to why he made his Instagram post.

After the announcement from Rugby Australia, International Gay Rugby (IGR) released a statement commending the move.

Ben Owen, the chair of the 76-member global organization of gay and inclusive rugby clubs, said: ‘The decision by Rugby Australia and the NSW Rugby Union today upholds rugby’s core values of respect and sportsmanship.’

He then continued: ‘Rugby has become one of the most inclusive sports on the planet. [It’s] where players, spectators and officials, regardless of their ability, race, age, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression can enjoy the game without fear of discrimination by others.

‘When someone like Folau makes statements like this, it sends a message that members of the LGBT community are less-than and it can have irreparable harm.

‘On behalf of our gay and inclusive rugby community, we hope the decision made today sends a clear message to the world, that any kind of discrimination has no place in our sport,’ Owen said.

Israel Folau’s anti-gay history

Folau is no stranger to homophobia.

At the beginning of April last year, he posted a comment on Instagram saying God’s plan for gay people is: ‘HELL. Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.’

Despite facing widespread criticism, he refused to back down, saying he was simply following his sincerely held Christian beliefs. He even went on to compare himself to prophets who had been persecuted in the past for their beliefs.

Then in May, Folau posted an 11-minute video to his Twitter with the following message.

‘With great love, I wanted to share this video in the hope that people watch it and think about it. Jesus is coming back soon and he wants us to turn to him through repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38) please don’t harden your heart.’

The video features a sermon by evangelical preacher David Wilkerson, in which he implores people to ‘Get right with God.’

He says that we are living in a time of ‘sexual perversions beyond description’, against footage of Christian demonstrators being counter-protested at a Pride march.

Against a clip of the White House lit in rainbow colors, Wilkerson says, ‘Now is the time to get right with God because this generation has lost the fear of God. There’s no fear of God left in the land.

The video also slams the idea of ‘tolerance’, as well as same-sex marriage.

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