Israel Folau Sacked By Rugby Australia
Israel Folau has now officially responded to being sacked by Rugby Australia.
Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle formally announced the sacking of Israel Folau for his controversial social media posts on Friday afternoon.
"We are here to announce that Wallabies and Waratahs player Israel Folau has today been issued a sanction directing termination of his playing contract for his breach of the professional players code of conduct," Castle said.
"While Rugby Australia accepts the panel's decision to terminate his player contract for his breach of the code of conduct, we want to stress that this outcome is a painful situation for the game.
"Rugby Australia did not choose to be in the situation, but Rugby Australia's position remains that Israel, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue the course of action resulting in today's outcome.
Folau responded a couple of hours later, with a statement which read:
It has been a privilege and an honour to represent Australia and my home state of New South Wales, playing the game I love.
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 and country.
I would like to thank my wife Maria for her love and encouragement to stay true to our beliefs. We have been humbled by the support we have received from family, friends, players, fans and the wider community.
Thank you also to those who have spoken out in my defence, some of whom do not share my beliefs but have defended my right to express them.
Earlier, Castle said this had been an extremely challenging period for rugby, and that this issue had created an unwanted disruption in an important year for the sport and for the Wallabies team.
"Our clear message today is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork," she said.
30-year-old Folau was last week found guilty of a high-level breach of Rugby Australia's professional players' code of conduct by a panel consisting of John West QC, Kate Eastman SC, and John Boultbee AM.
The breach related to a social media post on April 10 in which he said gays and certain other types of people would go to hell.
It was Folau's second such post in 12 months, and it prompted rugby bosses to issue the breach notice as the post was contrary to Rugby Australia's Inclusion Policy.
"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," rugby bosses said at the time.
Friday's decision to sack him means that the four-year, $4 million contract of the talented winger/fullback who played 62 Tests for the Wallabies is now effectively in tatters. He has been paid until the end of May.
"Over the last hour, I have communicated directly with the players, all professional players, to make it clear that Rugby Australia fully supports their right to their own beliefs and nothing that has happened changes that," Castle said.
"But when we are talking about inclusiveness in our game, we are talking about respecting differences as well. When we say rugby is a game for all, we mean it.
"People need to feel safe and welcoming the game, regardless of their race, background or sexuality."
Castle said it it wasn't Rugby Australia that had put itself in this situation, but Folau himself.
"We had to respond to protect the integrity and the values of Rugby Australia," she said.
Castle made a clear distinction between those in rugby who quote the Bible in a respectful way, and the posts of Folau.
"We have many players who quote the Bible on their social media platforms. We had a prayer circle on the ground between players after the game last weekend, and Rugby Australia and the Waratahs are completely supportive of that," she said.
Sources say Folau will likely now take the matter to court, arguing he has been unfairly dismissed due to his religious beliefs.