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Israel Folau’s Australian rugby union contract terminated due to code of conduct breach
A three-person panel has ordered that Israel Folau's Australian rugby union four-year, $4 million contract be terminated due to his breach of the players' code of conduct.
The panel, which this month ruled that Folau was guilty of a "high-level breach" of the players' code over his controversial social media posts, including one proclaiming hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters", decided to end the 30-year-old's contract.
"Rugby Australia did not choose to be in this 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," said Rugby Australia (RA) Chief Executive Raelene Castle.
Castle confirmed Folau has 72 hours to appeal the decision, but would not comment on reports he plans to take the case to the Supreme Court.
Castle said Folau knew his social media posts would have wider implications: “People need to feel safe and welcomed in the game, regardless of their race, background or sexuality.
"This is a decision that will change the landscape for sport across Australia and perhaps internationally," Castle added.
"He is a very important player in our game and he has been for a long period of time and we wanted to make sure we took the time to get it right."
In response Folau released a statement late Friday 17th May saying he was "deeply saddened" by the decision, and that he was considering his options.
"It has been a privilege and an honour to represent Australia and my home state of New South Wales, playing the game I love," Folau said.
"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."
Folau thanked his family, particularly wife Maria, "for her love and encouragement to stay true to our beliefs".
The former Wallaby also thanked those who defended his right to express his beliefs, despite not sharing them.
"We have been humbled by the support we have received from family, friends, players, fans and the wider community," Folau added.
"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."
In response to today’s announcement from Rugby Australia regarding Folau, Co-Founder of the Pride in Sport Index and Vice-President of ACON, Andrew Purchas OAM said: “Pride in Sport welcomes the recommendation of the independent panel and subsequent decision by Rugby Australia to end its contract with Israel Folau.
“This decision sends a strong message that homophobia and transphobia will not be tolerated in Rugby Union.
“The views of Mr Folau on LGBTQ people do not reflect community standards and expectations. Such statements work against the significant progress on acceptance and inclusion that is being made by sporting codes, clubs and organisations across Australia.
"Homophobia and transphobia has no place in sport, whether on or off the field. We know that statements of sporting figures can have a profound impact on our culture, as well as have great influence on the community – especially young people.
“The statements made by Mr Folau can be detrimental to LGBTQ youth who already experience higher levels of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide ideation and suicide as a result of prejudice, discrimination and exclusion.
“We commend Rugby Australia, as well as NSW Rugby Union, for their leadership and courage throughout this process. Their swift and decisive actions shows that homophobic and transphobic discrimination is not acceptable in sport and individuals – irrespective of their social or professional stature – will be held accountable for their words and actions.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Rugby Australia around inclusion at all levels of the sport, and urge all other sports wishing to do more on LGBTQ inclusion to contact Pride in Sport.”
Folau, who played 73 Tests for the Wallabies, fronted a three-person tribunal at the beginning of May, comprising of chair John West, Rugby Australia's representative, Kate Eastman, and the Rugby Union Players' Association-appointed John Boultbee.
Folau's professional sporting career is now uncertain, with a move to European or Japanese club rugby union hardly guaranteed.
A move back to the NRL, where his professional career began back in 2007, was ruled out last month when the league said the Australia and Queensland rugby league representative did not pass the code's "inclusiveness culture".
Castle said she could not foresee Folau playing for New South Wales or Australia again "while the post remains up and he is unapologetic for his actions".
With regards to Polynesian players who have supported Folau, Castle has stated that she is confident players understood that everyone has a right to their own religious beliefs: "As long as they continue to express them in a respectful way we will continue to support them," she said.
"But if you are going to express them as an employee of an organisation, when you have signed a contract that clearly sets out the expectations of the values of that code, you must abide by that contract and if you don't, it is a breach of contract and your contract could be terminated."
Castle said the league had many players who quoted the Bible on their social media platforms, noting Rugby Australia was "completely supportive of that".
3rd May 2019 - Why Israel Folau’s social media posts are harmful
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