Rugby Australia are to set to terminate Israel Folau’s contract over homophobic social media posts, the union has announced.
The Wallabies star was warned last year, after making homophobic comments on his social media channels, but avoided any disciplinary action. In his latest comments, the full-back said ‘hell awaits’ gay people.
In a statement, Rugby Australia and New South Wales Rugby Union said: “As a code we have made it clear to Israel formally and repeatedly that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action. In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract.
“Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union have made repeated attempts to contact Israel both directly and via his representatives since 6.30pm on Wednesday, and at this point he has failed to communicate directly with either organisation.
“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.
“Rugby is a sport that continuously works to unite people. We want everyone to feel safe and welcome in our game and no vilification based on race, gender, religion or sexuality is acceptable and no language that isolates, divides or insults people based on any of those factors can be tolerated.”
Folau was reminded of his social media obligations by RA chief executive Raelene Castle last year. There were also threats from sponsors of the Australian national team, including title sponsor Qantas, that they would withdraw support following his social media posts.
In this latest incident, a message published on his Instagram account on Wednesday read that “hell awaits” for “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators.”
Folau said on Instagram: “Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.”
Qantas’s chief executive Alan Joyce, who is openly gay, called Folau’s posts “really disappointing”.
“These comments clearly don’t reflect the spirit of inclusion and diversity that we support,” the airline said.
The 30-year-old has won 73 caps and would have been a key part of Australia head coach Michael Cheika’s World Cup plans this year. Last weekend, he broke the Super Rugby try-scoring record.
His contract, which is set to be terminated, with the Wallabies and Waratahs runs until 2022.