Rugby star Israel Folau has been a given a “high-level” breach notice by bosses for his anti-gay social media posts last week but has refused to back away from them.
The 30-year-old rugby union player posted an image to Instagram last Wednesday claiming “hell awaits … drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” and another post suggesting new Tasmanian gender reforms were “evil” and linked to the “devil”.
Folau stood by the comments and told the Sydney Morning Herald at his church on Sunday that he would “absolutely not” reconsider his views.
“I’ll stand on what the Bible says. I share it with love,” he said.
“I can see the other side of the coin where people’s reactions are the total opposite to how I’m sharing it.
“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.”
Folau went on to say he would “absolutely” walk away from his rugby career over his views.
“First and foremost, I live for God now,” he said.
“Whatever he wants me to do, I believe his plans for me are better than whatever I can think.
“If that’s not to continue on playing, so be it. In saying that, obviously I love playing footy and if it goes down that path I’ll definitely miss it.
“But my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first.”
Folau issued official ‘code of conduct breach’ notice
On Friday, Rugby Australia said its intention was to terminate Folau’s $4 million contract “in the absence of compelling mitigating circumstances” for the social media posts which they said were “inconsistent with the values of the sport.”
And on Monday afternoon, Folau was issued an official code of conduct breach notice by Rugby Australia for the social media posts.
The Rugby Australia Integrity Unit deemed Folau “had committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players’ Code of conduct warranting termination of his employment contract,” a statement said.
“At its core, this is an issue of the responsibilities an employee owes to their employer and the commitments they make to their employer to abide by their employer’s policies and procedures and adhere to their employer’s values,” Rugby Australia said in a statement.
“Following the events of last year, Israel was warned formally and repeatedly about the expectations of him as player for the Wallabies and NSW Waratahs with regards to social media use and he has failed to meet those obligations.
“It was made clear to him that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action.
“All professional Rugby players in Australia are bound by the Code of Conduct and there is a process in place for any disciplinary matter.
“We appreciate that this particular matter will attract significant interest, but due process must be followed.”
Folau now has 48 hours to accept the sanction or have the matter referred to a Code of Conduct hearing.
Earlier, a joint Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby Union statement read, “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.
“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.”
On Friday night the NSW Rugby Union announced that Folau had been stood down “from all player duties with the NSW Waratahs until further notice.”
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