Sacked Wallabies player Israel Folau has settled his legal dispute with Rugby Australia (RA) over anti-gay comments.
The former Star Observer cover boy was seeking $14 million compensation for alleged wrongful termination after RA sacked him for a code of conduct breach when he said on social media in April that “hell awaits” gay people.
Folau, who has since followed that statement with other anti-gay comments—including a sermon linking Australia’s bushfire crisis to same-sex marriage and abortion—this afternoon released a joint statement with RA, which said they had reached a confidential settlement.
In a significant turnaround, the statement said Folau shares RA’s commitment to inclusivity and does not condone discrimination against LGBTI people.
“Mr Folau wants all Australians to know that he does not condone discrimination of any kind against any person on the grounds of their sexuality and that he shares Rugby Australia’s commitment to inclusiveness and diversity.”
The statement continued: “Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby do not in any way agree with the content of [Folau’s] social media post. Inclusiveness is one of rugby’s core values and it welcomes all people to the game, including all members of the LGBTI community.”
The statement did, however, make concessions to Folau’s religious beliefs.
“The social media post reflected Mr Folau’s genuinely held religious beliefs, and Mr Folau did not intend to harm or offend any person when he uploaded the social media post.
“While it was not Rugby Australia’s intention, Rugby Australia acknowledges and apologises for any hurt or harm caused to the Folaus.”
The statement concluded by saying the two parties wished each other well and would not comment further.
“Rugby Australia and Mr Folau wish each other well for the future. The parties do not intend to comment further on the terms of their settlement, as it is confidential.”
The settlement comes just days after Folau lodged an updated statement of claim in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, increasing his damages claim from $10 million to $14 million.
Folau is currently embroiled in a second court case. In a separate matter, Sydney gay activist Garry Burns is suing Folau for $100,000 at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).
In his submission to NSW Anti-Discrimination Board president, Dr Annabelle Bennett, Burns alleged Folau’s comments about gay people breached Section 49ZT of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977.
Burns told the Star Observer this afternoon he was continuing proceedings but open to mediation with Folau.
“I have written to George Haros, principal lawyer acting for Mr Folau, and in that correspondence I have asked to meet with him, with the a view to remedying the matter,” Burns said.
“At this point I have not yet instructed a solicitor or counsel and would prefer to meet with Folau to try to remedy the matter with him in good faith, so as to head off any protracted and or costly legal proceedings.”
Burns said he would donate 100 per cent of any monies paid by Folau to LGBTQI youth support organisation, Minus 18.
Just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome also said the issue wasn’t finalised.
In a statement sent to the Star Observer, Croome said there was still unfinished business around the issue.
“He should apologise to the LGBTI community for the harm he caused, he should say sorry to the rugby community for the disruption he caused to the sport, and he should refund the money he raised for his defence in court,” said Croome.
Croome linked the issue to the federal government’s Religious Discrimination Bill, using the opportunity to call for the draft bill to be killed off.
“The poisoned legacy of the Folau furore is a religious freedom bill no one wants and no one supports,” he said.
“The resolution of Israel Folau’s case is as good a time as any to ditch it.”