Australia’s rugby union authorities have issued Israel Folau with a code of conduct breach notice over his controversial social media post which said “hell awaits” gay people.
In a statement issued Monday, Rugby Australia said the player had “committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct warranting termination of his employment contract.”
The 30-year-old has 48 hours to accept the sanction or face a code of conduct hearing.
Last week, the Wallabies and New South Wales Waratahs fullback posted an image on Instagram listing “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters,” reading underneath, “Hell awaits you.” The post has not been removed.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald after a church service on Sunday, Folau said he was unrepentant about calling gay people sinners in the post, which caused widespread condemnation.
“I’ll stand on what the Bible says,” he said. “I share it with love. I can see the other side of the coin where people’s reactions are the total opposite to how I’m sharing it.”
In April 2018, Folau – who has won 73 caps and had a contract with Rugby Australia until 2022 – was criticized for writing in an Instagram comment that gay people would go to hell unless they repented.
On Monday, Raelene Castle, Rugby Australia chief executive, said: “Following the events of last year, Israel was warned formally and repeatedly about the expectations of him as player for the Wallabies and NSW Waratahs with regards to social media use and he has failed to meet those obligations.
“It was made clear to him that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action.”
The statewide governing body for New South Wales has “stood (Folau) down … from all player duties with the NSW Waratahs until further notice,” NSW Rugby Union said Friday.
Qantas, a major sponsor of the national team, condemned Folau’s post. “These comments are really disappointing and clearly don’t reflect the spirit of inclusion and diversity that we support,” a Qantas spokesman said in a statement sent to CNN.
“We are pleased to see Rugby Australia’s condemnation of the comments and will await the outcome of their review.”
Folau: Faith ‘comes first’
Speaking after a sermon that reportedly offered the under-fire star support, calling him persecuted for his beliefs several times, Folau said his faith outweighed his desire to keep his position on the national team or for the Waratahs.
“Absolutely,” Folau said. “First and foremost, I live for God now. Whatever he wants me to do, I believe his plans for me are better than whatever I can think. If that’s not to continue on playing, so be it.
“In saying that, obviously I love playing footy and if it goes down that path I’ll definitely miss it. But my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first.”
He told the Sydney daily that he had not yet reached a decision on whether to sue for religious discrimination should he be cut from his teams.
“It’s obviously a decision that’s in the process right now but I believe in a God that’s in control of all things,” Folau said. “Whatever his will is, whether that’s to continue playing or not, I’m more than happy to do what he wants me to do.”
Folau, who broke the record for Super Rugby tries earlier this month, also tweeted a screenshot of the news that Tasmania last week became the first Australian jurisdiction to make gender optional on birth certificates.
“The devil has blinded so many people in this world, repent and turn away from your evil ways,” he captioned the screenshot. That tweet is also still active.