Israel Folau has seen serious repercussions for his homophobic social media posts.
Australian rugby union player Israel Folau was fired from the sport after he posted an anti-gay statement on social media.
For the past year, Folau has been known for his aggressive take on traditional Christian values. Specifically, his Christian faith was expressed regularly through anti-gay Instagram posts. But it seems that Folau’s posts finally became too much for the Australian league and the Wallabies team, as he was recently sacked from both.
Folau was found guilty of a code of conduct breach last week, though his termination has been in the works since the past month. A three-person tribunal decided that Folau had crossed the line after posting a social media post which listed, “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters,” before saying, “Hell awaits you.”
In response to his termination, Folau said he was “deeply saddened.”
“It has been a privilege and an honor to represent Australia and my home state of New South Wales, playing the game I love,” he said in an official statement.
“I am deeply saddened by today’s decision to terminate my employment and I am considering my options. As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression,” he shared.
Folau then spoke of his Christian faith and how he had the right to express it.
“The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God’s word. Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club or country.”
That said, this termination did not come without warning. Folau was warned by Rugby Australia last month after several other posts by the athlete.
Rugby Australia chief executive officer Raelene Castle spoke on the issue at a press conference on Friday. There, Castle said:
“This is a decision that will change the landscape for sport in Australia and possibly across the world … we wanted to make sure we took the time to get the decision right.”
“While Rugby Australia accepts the panel’s decision directing termination of Israel Folau’s contract for his high-level breach of the code of conduct, we want to stress that this outcome is a painful situation for the game,” Castle added.
“In rugby, there is not a place for someone that puts their views or position in front of everyone else’s. That is true of every employee that we have at Rugby Australia, not just the player base, every employee for Rugby Australia, we all need to work together and lived to the values of Rugby Australia.”
Despite being given 72 hours to appeal the decision, Israel Folau did not choose to do so. Top sports journalist Andrew Webster commented on Folau’s contract termination by saying the athlete wanted out of the professional sport.
“He’s been playing professional sport [from] the age of 17, when he debuted for the Melbourne Storm,” Webster told New Zealand’s Channel Nine Sports Sunday program. “He’s played three different codes, and they seem to think that the way that he has acted and the way that he was just such a renegade with this last social media post after what happened exactly a year ago, suggests to them in the Wallabies set-up that he just doesn’t want to play professional sport any more. It’s also his beliefs; he’s dug in for that.
Though, Webster was not shy to share his personal feelings on the matter.
“Can I just say this though: See ya, Israel. See ya.”
“I’m just so glad that this issue [is over]. I know it’s probably going to kick on in the courts, but it’s been such a ridiculous debate,” he added.
“The way Israel Folau has been positioned as a victim, that he’s been persecuted, as some modern-day Muhammad Ali in the last 10 days is just ridiculous. He’s not being vilified for his Christian beliefs. He’s being vilified for vilifying others. And to be honest, that’s it. That’s the debate and that’s where it ends,” Webster argued.
“It’s so good that Rugby Australia and that disciplinary committee could see that.”