Rugby Australia has fired Israel Folau over anti-LGBTQ social media posts, following warnings it would do so if the star athlete didn’t change his behavior.
The Wallabies and the New South Wales Waratahs standout made an inflammatory statement on Instagram last year, saying gay people would go to hell unless they “repent.” The league came out against Folau’s comment, but chose not to discipline him, despite noting in a statement that his behavior violated the league’s conduct policy.
A month later he was back at it, posting an anti-LGBTQ video, again urging people to repent or go to hell.
The final straw came last month, when the rugby player yet again made homophobic and transphobic posts, to both Twitter and Instagram.
Finally the league said they had had enough and were going to fire Folau, who said in an interview last year he would rather walk away from the sport than tone down his rhetoric.
“Whilst Israel is entitled to his religious beliefs, the way in which he has expressed these beliefs is inconsistent with the values of the sport,” said Rugby Australia Chief Executive Raelene Castle and NSW Rugby Union CEO Andrew Hore in a statement. “We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts…In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract.”
Rugby Australia made good on that promise, with a three-person tribunal deciding on Friday to terminate his contract. He has 72 hours to appeal the decision.
“It has been a privilege and an honor to represent Australia and my home state of New South Wales, playing the game I love,” Folau said in a 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. 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.”
“In rugby, there is not a place for someone that puts their views or position in front of everyone else’s,” Rugby Australia chief executive officer Raelene Castle told reports, CNN reports.
“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,” Castle added, calling the outcome “a painful situation for the game.”