‘RELIGIOUS nutter’ Israel Folau is about to be sacked by Rugby Australia and the NSW Rugby Union as a result of an image, inset, that he posted on Instagram.
Both organisations released a joint statement today (Thursday) saying that, barring unforseen circumstances, Folau’s multi-million dollar four-year contract would be terminated.
And Rugby Australia’s major sponsor, Qantas, labelled Folau’s post as “really disappointing”.
Said RA chief executive Raelene Castle and NSWRU boss Andrew Hore in the statement:
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.
The statement added:
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.
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.
Folau’s deliberate decision to not remove the post, and the fact he made a similar comment this time last year and was warned by RA, left Castle no option but to put the foot down and all but draw the curtains on a stellar career in the code, which began in 2013.Folau’s stupidity could not have come at a worse time, as the two rugby bodies were in the middle of negotiating a new sponsorship deal with Quantas, which said:
These comments are really disappointing and clearly don’t reflect the spirit of inclusion and diversity that we support. We’re pleased to see Rugby Australia’s condemnation of the comments.
Just last week Folau became the most prolific try-scorer in Super Rugby history and was certain to be a key figure in the Wallabies’ World Cup campaign later this year in Japan.
Another problem RA became aware of was that other Wallabies representatives, such as Samu Kerevi and Allan Alaalatoa, liked Folau’s post.
While Kerevi and Alaalatoa liked the photo, there were a number of other players, including Henry Speight, understood to have unliked the post after being warned to do so on Thursday.
Many, including New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have slammed Folau, but Japan’s captain, Michael Leitch, was the strongest voice of the lot and called Folau out for what he believed was bullying of the lowest order.
We can’t accept this kind of behaviour. When I see a bully the first thing I have to do is call them out and I think I’m calling you out for the right reasons. You should apologise or do something to make amends.
A commentator on Australia’s 9News pointed out that “a lot of Australians” were on Folau list, but not child abusers.
I’m sorry but we’re not in a climate that’s prepared to tolerate religious nutters.
This seemed to upset the programme’s presenter, who took issue with the term “religious nutter”. She said:
He’s a Christian who expressed a personal opinion and he comes from a highly religious background.
In an op-ed for the South China Morning Post, Mark Agnew wrote:
Diversity of views is a symptom of free speech, so don’t expect everyone to agree with you in a functioning society. Expect people to debate, and ridicule you if you have a view that they disagree with. But don’t expect religion to be a free pass if you’re a professional sportsperson, with a huge following, categorically condemning masses of people as evil and hell-bound. Instead, expect to lose your job.