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“We have been vindicated:” Israel Folau settles lawsuit with Rugby Australia

Former rugby star Israel Folau, who said “hell awaits” gay people, settled with Rugby Australia for a confidential amount, according to a joint statement.

Israel Folau Mediation Meeting With Rugby Australia
Maria Folau holds hands with husband Israel Folau as he leaves Federal Court on December 02, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia.
Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

The headlines down under say officials in charge of rugby in Australia caved to former rugby star Israel Folau’s demands for compensation for firing him over anti-gay social media posts, and apologized for causing him any harm...

Still other headlines say Rugby Australia denied backing down to Folau’s demands and secured an apology from Folau, who stated he wanted “all Australians to know that he does not condone discrimination of any kind against any person on the grounds of their sexuality.” He also reportedly called on lawmakers to enact new protections against religious discrimination.

And all of the above is true.

On Wednesday, Folau and Rugby Australia reached an abrupt conclusion to their months-long dispute over his firing for homophobic and transphobic messages on social media, including one that said hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and other groups.

Rugby Australia fired Folau earlier this year for his “hell awaits” post, declaring it a breach of their code of conduct, and the former star sued for wrongful termination. At first he asked for $10m in Australian currency, but last week upped his demands to $14m.

Twelve hours of negotiating Monday ended without any progress, but on Wednesday RA and Folau’s representatives issued a joint statement declaring they had reached a confidential settlement and that both sides apologized for ”any hurt or harm caused.”

The Daily Telegraph reported that Folau plans to resume playing rugby, and received $8 million in the payout. Reports in the Australian indicated the settlement was between $1 million and $3 million. RA chief executive Raelene Castle tweeted reports like these were exaggerated.

Former Wallaby and writer Peter FitzSimons guessed the actual figure was far lower.

”I have no inside knowledge of the terms, not even a hint, but my bet is it will be about $200,000 to $300,000,” he said in a column for the Sydney Morning Herald.

On Wednesday, Castle said settling was “more cost-effective for us”.

”So we made a decision that gave us cost certainty that put us in the best financial decision entering the new year in a positive way,” she said.

As for Folau playing rugby again, Castle did not rule it out but indicated it would be unlikely.

For his part, Folau posted a one minute video to YouTube with his wife, Maria, thanking supporters, hailing the settlement as vindication and calling on Australia’s lawmakers to enact greater protections against religious discrimination.

If there’s any doubt Folau has moderated his far right Christian views following his statement declaring he did not condone discrimination this week, it should be noted that his “hell awaits” post remains on his Instagram account. He also recently blamed abortion and same-sex marriage for bushfires.