It’s been reported that disgraced Australian rugby star Israel Folau will fight attempts to fire him for his homophobic statements on social media.
On Wednesday, Folau, 30, shared an image on Instagram declaring that “Hell awaits” gay people, sparking international outrage. On Twitter, in a comment on a news story about Tasmania becoming the first state in Australia to make the inclusion of gender optional on birth certificates, he also warned people to “repent and turn away from your evil ways.”
After rugby authorities could not reach Folau they announced on Thursday that “in the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract.”
While the player has remained silent on the matter, Rugby Australia and the NSW Rugby Union confirmed in a statement on Friday that they had finally met with Folau in Sydney.
The organisations said after the meeting, “that our joint position regarding Israel Folau is unchanged.”
It’s understood, however, that the devout Christian is prepared to face a code of conduct hearing before his four-year $4 million contract can be terminated.
According to ESPN, Folau has told Rugby Union Players’ Association head Prataal Raj, that he wants to use the hearing to challenge Rugby Australia’s plan to fire him.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday appeared to support the decision to let Folau go over his “terribly insensitive comments”. He said: “You know it’s important that people act with love and care and compassion to their fellow citizens and to speak sensitively to their fellow Australians.”
International Gay Rugby (IGR), the global organisation for the world’s gay and inclusive rugby clubs, earlier welcomed the decision by Rugby Australia and the NSW Rugby Union to sack Folau.
“On behalf of our gay and inclusive rugby community, we hope the decision made today sends a clear message to the world, that any kind of discrimination has no place in our sport,” said IGR Chair, Ben Owen.
Folau previously ignited a firestorm in April 2018, when he posted on social media that, according to “God’s plan”, gay people faced hell. He avoided sanctions at the time but was warned by Rugby Australia to avoid making similar comments in future.