An independent panel has found Israel Folau committed a “high-level” breach of Rugby Australia’s professional players’ code of conduct, opening the door for the termination of Folau’s contract.
The code of conduct hearing began on Saturday after Folau caused uproar by posting on social media last month that “hell awaits” homosexuals, adulterers, liars and thieves, among others.
After three days of deliberations, the hearing with Rugby Australia produced a judgement on Tuesday but no decisions on sanctions against the ARU star have yet been made.
A statement from Rugby Australia on Tuesday evening announced the three-person panel had handed down the judgement.
“The panel has today provided a judgement that Israel Folau committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct with his social media posts on April 10,” the statement read.
“The panel will now take further written submissions from the parties to consider the matter of sanction.
“A further update with be provided after the panel delivers its decision on sanction.”
Folau and RA will have 72 hours following any decision to lodge an appeal. It’s understood only a “high level” code of conduct breach would allow the termination of his contract.
Rugby Australia said last month they “intended to terminate” Folau’s $4 million contract over the posts, and gave Folau the breach notice, which he challenged.
“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,” RA chief executive Raelene Castle said on April 11.
“We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts.”
“Israel has failed to understand that the expectation of him as a Rugby Australia and NSW Waratahs employee is that he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality.”
Following the global backlash against the posts, which also criticised transgender people, Folau defended them and said they were “shared with love.”
“I can see the other side of the coin where people’s reactions are the total opposite to how I’m sharing it,” he said.
“That’s the message that I’m trying to share, even though it comes across as harsh. I can’t change what the word of God says.”
But on Sunday rugby icon Ian Roberts, the first Australian NRL player to publicly come out as gay, gave Folau a sobering message that remarks like his “can and do push people over the edge.”
“I feel sorry for Israel but there are consequences to your actions,” Roberts said.
“There are literally kids in the suburbs killing themselves and I say that with the greatest sense of respect… I’m not saying that Israel is responsible solely for that.
“But it’s these types of comments and these types of off-the-cuff remarks when you have young people and vulnerable people who are dealing with their sexuality, confused, not knowing how to deal with it.”
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