Aussie Athlete Israel Folau Found in 'High Breach of Contract' for Anti-LGBTQ Posts

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday May 7, 2019

It's been more than a year since Australian rugby star New South Wales Waratahs team member Israel Folau found himself in hot water for a post in which he declared that all gays are destined for — as he put it, in all caps — "HELL." An inquiry followed, along with more anti-LGTBQ posts, and it looked as if even though his social media remarks were seemingly in direct violation of the sport's stated standards, the star was going to get off scot-free After signing a new contract late last year, Folau even boasted that he had "enjoyed" the flap raised by his posts..

But Folau seemingly crossed a line with a post last month that widened the nine circles of the pit to include a gamut of sinners (and "sinners"). In that post, Folau declared that Hell — or, perhaps, HELL — awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators," the Associated Press reported at the time.

Folau's future with the sport looks to be in serious jeopardy after a tribunal found him to be in breach of his contract, reports The Australian.

Indeed, The Australian went so far as to say that "Folau's career now teeters on the brink of ruin."

The Associated Press had reported that the head of Rugby Australia, Raelene Castle, addressed the posts and the controversial subject of Folau's religious liberties, pointing to the need for a balance between the athlete's religious convictions and job-related expectations of personal comportment. Castle told the media that "the way in which he has expressed these beliefs is inconsistent with the values of the sport."

Added Castle, "We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts."

Castle wasn't alone in expressing such concerns. Qantas Air, which is a sponsor for the sport at the national level, also weighed in, stating that Folau's remarks "clearly don't reflect the spirit of inclusion and diversity that we support." noted that "high-level Breach" of contract could lead to Folau's losing his current contract, which is for four years and a sum of $4 million.

That is exactly what the three-member tribunal found Folau had committed, Rugby Australia announced in a statement, reported.

The statement read, in part, "The panel has today provided a judgment that Israel Folau committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players' Code of Conduct with his social media posts on April 10, 2019."

Rugby Australia has already said it has decided to end Folau's contract, the AP reported. The tribunal will determine any further penalties. British newspaper The Guardian noted that the loss of his contract would not necessarily mean Folau would be fired.

Players facing less severe punishments had seen remarkable solidarity from their peers. The Australian noted that five years ago, when another player, Kurtley Beale, was fined $45,000 for transmitting a sexually explicit image to a woman, the head coach of the Wallabies team quit in protest, but added that it's uncertain whether Folau would receive the same sort of support. But conservative politicians rushed to Folau's defense, with one prominent conservative, Cory Bernardi, speaking out against the tribunal's finding.

"I find it extraordinary that quoting from the bestselling book in the history of the world is a breach of contract," quoted Bernardi as saying.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.