Devout Christian Israel Folau has responded to the decision by Rugby Australia to terminate his four-year, $4 million contract with a post of a bible verse on Instagram — the same social media platform where his “warning” to “sinners” — including gays — got him in trouble.
And around the world, homophobes who play sports should be paying close attention.
As Yahoo! Sports reported, Rugby Australia announced the decision to cut ties with Folau Friday following the 10-day review by a three-member independent panel, which had already found that Folau’s post, telling gays they’d go to hell if they didn’t “repent,” violated the RA’s professional players’ code of conduct.
This wasn’t his first offense. Almost a year ago, Folau got off with a warning to not repeat homophobic posts. But then he went back to sharing his extremist religious view.
RA no doubt wanted to keep Folau on its roster, with the Rugby World Cup in Japan just a few months away. In announcing the outcome of the exhaustive review, the national organization sent a clear message: the players’ personal beliefs will be respected, but that is not permission to spread hate: “Rugby Australia fully supports their right to their own beliefs and nothing that has happened changes that,” said Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle. “But when we are talking about inclusiveness in our game, we’re talking about respecting differences as well.”
There is still one last avenue for Folau to challenge the decision. He has 72 hours to appeal and force RA into proceeding with a second code of conduct hearing.
The only clue to his reaction at the moment is this post, citing Matthew 6:33, declaring that “all things shall be added to you” if you seek first “the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”
Maybe he should instead look up Matthew 22, verse “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Castle called this a sad day for Australian rugby, but said that Folau had left the governing body with no alternative than to seek termination of his contract. Below is her statement to reporters.
“We want to stress that this outcome is a painful situation for the game.
“Rugby Australia did not choose to be in this situation, but Rugby Australia’s position remains that Israel, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue this course of action.
“This has been an extremely challenging period for Rugby and this issue has created an unwanted distraction in an important year for the sport and for the Wallabies team.
“But our clear message to all Rugby fans today is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork.
“I’ve communicated directly with the players to make it clear that Rugby Australia fully supports their right to their own beliefs and nothing that has happened changes that.
“But when we are talking about inclusiveness in our game, we’re talking about respecting differences as well.
“When we say rugby is a game for all, we mean it. People need to feel safe and welcomed in our game regardless of their gender, race, background, religion, or sexuality.
“We thank the tribunal panel for their decision and we respect the time, consideration and expertise the panel members brought to this process.
“Representing Australia and all Australians on the Rugby field is a privilege.
“Selection is dependent upon a player’s ability to contribute to the Wallabies, and the game of Rugby itself, in a positive and consistent manner both on and off the field.
“When players sign a contract with the Wallabies, they sign up to the values of the team and the sport.”