Following Firing, Folau Solicits Supporters for Scratch

Friday June 21, 2019

After trashing his career by posting anti-LGBTQ messages on social media even after he was warned that doing so violated the policies of his team and of Rugby Australia, former sports star Israel Folau has now taken to YouTube, claiming persecution and asking for donations. Folau says the money raised will fund a legal challenge to Rugby Australia, which canceled his $4 million contract in May, citing "high breach of contract."

Folau's spiral of career disintegration commenced last year when he posted a claim on social media that LGBTQ people are destined for — as the athlete put it, in all capital letters — "HELL." When pushback from fans and social media users resulted, Folau dug in; as officials from his team and Rugby Australia debated how to address his violation of their clearly-stated policies regarding inclusiveness, Folau played the victim card, claiming that he was being persecuted for his faith — even though he skated away unscathed from that controversy.

Then came subsequent attacks on LGBTQ people, culminating in a post last April in which Folau shared a quote from the New Testament book Epistle to the Galatians (King James version), which he presented as a text that consigns sexual minorities to eternal damnation along with "liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists," and others.

At that point, Rugby Australia had had enough. The sports body canceled Folau's contract after a tribunal found him to be in "high breach of contract" for his repeated instances of homophobic rhetoric.

The BBC noted that before his firing, Folau had lost deals with sponsors Asics and Land Rover.

Since being dropped, Folau has kept busy by taking to the pulpit of his church to attack sexual minorities while pursuing a legal claim against Rugby Australia. Yahoo! Sport reports that Folau, 30, has set up a GoFundMe page and made a video in which he declares himself to be a victim.

"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," Yahoo! Sport quoted Folau as saying in the video. "Rugby Australia tore up my employment contract for doing just that, and that's wrong. Every Australian should be able to practice their religion without fear of discrimination in the workplace."

Folau then claims that he and his wife have spent $100,000 Australian ($70,000 U.S.) on legal fees thus far, and vows to take the case to Australia's High Court — the country's version of the Supreme Court — if need be.

Rugby Australia firmly rejects that line of argument. Raelene Castle, the CEO of Rugby Australia, said in a release, "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."

Added Castle, "But when we are talking about inclusiveness in our game, we're talking about respecting differences as well."

Folau is seeking damages of around $10 million Australian (just under $7 million U.S.) from Rugby Australia.

That, reported Stuff.co.nz, constituted a 180-degree turnaround from Folau's earlier stance of being willing to walk away if he and Rugby Australia could not come to terms around his ongoing instances of going after LGBTQ people in his social media posts.

Las April, Stuff recalled, Folau authored a column for Players Voice in which he recounted, "After we'd all talked, I told Raelene if she felt the situation had become untenable — that I was hurting Rugby Australia, its sponsors and the Australian rugby community to such a degree that things couldn't be worked through — I would walk away from my contract, immediately."

Folau frames his current legal battle in David vs. Goliath terms, noted Stuff. In the video, Folau tells viewers that "Rugby Australia has an army of lawyers at their disposal and they have already said they will divert significant resources to fight me in court."

Before that happens, though, the case will be heard by Australia's Fair Work Commission, Stuff reported.