Israel Folau found guilty of breach of contract with anti-gay posts
Australia’s rugby player Israel Folau was found guilty of breach of contract after posting on social media that “hell awaits” gay people.
The athlete, who plays for both the Wallabies, Australia’s national team, and the New South Wales Waratahs, was judged to have committed a “high-level breach” of Rugby Australia’s code of conduct at a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday (May 7).
The three-member panel decision allows for Folau’s contract to be terminated, although a decision on the matter has yet to come.
“The panel will now take further written submissions from the parties to consider the matter of sanction,” a statement from Rugby Australia on the guilty ruling read, without specifying a timeline for the final verdict.
Rugby Australia and New South Wales Rugby both declared they’d fire the 30-year-old player on April 11, the day after he published the posts, for breaching a code of conduct forbidding players from engaging in discriminatory practices.
His contract was terminated on April 15 and he was given 48 hours to accept his firing or face a code of conduct hearing.
The rugby star, who is Christian, posted messages on Instagram on Wednesday (April 10) telling “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” that “hell awaits” unless they “repent.”
The messages were published hours after Tasmania passed sweeping reforms to permit people 16 or older to change their registered gender, removing requirements for transgender people to undergo surgery in order to have their legal gender recognised.
“The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free,” he wrote in a tweet, displaying an article about Tasmania’s vote.
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Israel Folau has a history of anti-gay remarks
It wasn’t the first time Folau expressed anti-gay views. In fact, his posts were published exactly a year since meeting with Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle and NSW Rugby counterpart Andrew Hore to discuss his social media use after prompting outrage by saying gay people were going to hell “unless they repent of their sins.”
He had also previously opposed same-sex marriage, voting “No” in . Australia’s 2017 postal referendum on the matter.
Folau’s career now hangs in the balance as the Rugby World Cup, held in Japan in September, approaches.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who gave evidence at Folau’s hearing, previously said he wouldn’t be able to pick the player for the World Cup.
“Getting out in that disrespectful manner publicly is not what our team’s about,” Cheika said in April, quoted in The Guardian. “When you play in the gold jersey, we represent everyone in Australia – everyone. Everyone that’s out there supporting us. We don’t pick and choose.”
Folau, who has yet to comment on Tuesday’s ruling, previously stated he does not regret the posts and is ready for his rugby career to end if that is what God wants for him.