Israel Folau has reportedly met with Rugby Australia, including CEO Raelene Castle, in the wake of his latest homophobic and transphobic comments.
Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby Union last night released a statement saying they would likely terminate Folau’s contract after failing to contact the rugby star.
He later posted an image on Instagram which stated that “hell awaits” gay people, similar to the social media posts that landed him in hot water last year.
“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,” said Castle and NSW Rugby Union CEO Andrew Hore in a joint statement.
“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.
“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 reportedly met with Castle and other Rugby Australia officials on Friday, with a code of conduct hearing in his future prompting him to also meet with the head of the Rugby Union Players Association, Prataal Raj.
Folau is apparently fighting to save his career, having previously indicated no desire to play overseas and the NRL suggesting it would not allow him to switch back to the code that launched him to sports stardom.
Co-founder of the Pride in Sport Index Andrew Purchas commended Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby Union for “taking a strong stand against homophobia and transphobia, and reaffirming their commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
“This unprecedented course of action sends a strong message of what will and will not be tolerated in rugby – and they’ve made it clear that homophobia and transphobia has no place in the sport, whether on or off the field.
“The words and actions of athletes and sporting figures have far-reaching consequences.
“Homophobic and transphobic remarks create division, take away people’s dignity and can contribute to people feeling excluded, anxious and inferior.
“We encourage all sporting bodies to follow the lead of Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby Union, and take a stand against homophobic and transphobic discrimination when it occurs, regardless of an individual’s social or professional stature within that sport,” said Purchas.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called Folau’s comments “damaging,” while Prime Minister Scott Morrison labelled them “terribly insensitive” – despite the fact that he last year commended Folau following his first controversy by saying, “Good for him for standing up for his faith.”
“I think he wouldn’t have wanted to intend to have offended or hurt anyone, because that’s very much against the faith that he feels so passionately about, but he’s shown I think a lot of strength of character in just standing up for what he believes in, and I think that’s what this country’s all about,” Morrison said at the time.
Folau is contracted until 2022, earning around $1 million per season.