Maria Folau Should Consider Herself Blessed Her Contract Wasn’t Torn Up
HALLELUJAH. The powers that be have seen the light.
After days of controversial crowdfunding, GoFundMe has removed Israel Folau’s plea for money to fund his legal battle with Rugby Australia, which last month terminated his multi-million-dollar contract. The governing body said Folau violated its Inclusion Policy with an Instagram post claiming gays and other people who participated in sin would be going to hell.
READ MORE: Israel Folau's GoFundMe Has Been Taken Down
GoFundMe Australia said today that Folau’s page breached its terms and conditions and that while it welcomes "engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion".
Fine print, like the one in that lucrative playing contract, has again proved to be a stumbling block for the rugby star. The organisation’s website states crowdfunding cannot be used for "campaigns we deem, in our sole discretion, to be in support of, or for the legal defense of alleged crimes associated with hate, violence, harassment, bullying, discrimination, terrorism, or intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or sex".
And so, after many forked out their hard-earned with a staggering $764,000 coughed up, it’s game over for Folau with all money to be refunded to donors.
It comes off the back of a damning response from netball legend and commentator Liz Ellis who yesterday slammed Netball South Australia for its wishy-washy statement on Maria Folau, Adelaide Thunderbirds player and wife of Israel, after she shared his GoFundMe post on her social media channel.
A statement from Netball South Australia CEO Bronwyn Klei, the sentiments of which were echoed by the sport’s national bodies, said while in no way did it endorse the reposting, it didn’t believe Maria had contravened their social media policy.
Ellis fired back on Twitter posting that the stance, or lack thereof, was “not good enough".
“There is no room for homophobia in our game. Anyone who is seen to support or endorse homophobia is not welcome. As much as I love watching Maria Folau play netball I do not want my sport endorsing the views of her husband.”
Maria Folau may not have penned the post but by resharing her husband’s upload to her own social media platform she is absolutely endorsing his view and ultimately spreading hate speech to her 87,000 followers and anyone who looks at her public account.
In April, AFL superstar Gary Ablett was drawn into the scandal when he liked Folau’s original social media post. He was spoken to by Geelong Cats club officials before taking to his own page to say he initially wanted to support Folau’s strong Christian faith but understood why his like “appeared” offensive. Ablett added that he loved “ALL people regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality".
No further action was taken by Ablett’s club or the AFL but it certainly created awareness and sparked some crucial conversations around what is acceptable content and opinion to share on social media. Many employers, not just huge sporting organisations, have social media policies in place and the boundaries are clear. Situations like Folau’s will only make them become even more crystal.
“Freedom of speech” is not a get-out-of-jail card for vile behaviour and it sure doesn’t mean you can say whatever the hell you like even if it’s your belief.
Being racist, sexist or homophobic is not exercising your right. It’s hate speech and it’s just that -- hateful.
Throughout this whole ugly saga, my thoughts always return to rugby and netball players who know Israel and Maria: teammates who may have taken to the field or court with them and are open and proud about their sexuality or same-sex relationship but also teammates or opponents who aren’t public about who they are and who they love.
How must they feel?
And what about anyone, of any age, who is coming to terms with who they are, who might be too scared to tell their family or are terrified of the response from their own teammates or friends? They do not deserve to scroll through their Instagram feeds and see role models, sports stars and people of public profile claiming they are going to hell. It’s sickening.
Maria Folau should consider herself blessed her own contract wasn’t torn up after she simply got a tut-tut warning from her employer.
It’s desperately disappointing that netball bosses had a prime opportunity to lead, make a stance and send a powerful message to its code and community, yet as the pressure mounted and all eyes turned to them, they were overcome by the moment and totally missed the shot.