“Vindicated” Israel Folau settles with Rugby Australia

Israel Folau (Pic: www.davidmolloyphotography.com)

Homophobic rugby player Israel Folau and Rugby Australia have settled his divisive lawsuit and issued a statement apologising to each other.

In June, Folau sued Rugby Australia (RA) for A$14m ($9.5m) in damages when he was fired for violating the organisation’s social media policy and values. His contract was terminated after he posted a series of homophobic comments on social media condemning homosexuals to hell. He later described transgender-affirming legislation “evil”.

Despite making millions during his rugby career as one of the country’s highest-earning players, Folau, 30, enlisted a conservative Christian group to help him raise money for his legal costs, claiming that his religious freedom had been violated.

On Wednesday, Folau and RA issued a joint statement following a 12-hour mediation hearing in Melbourne, effectively putting a legal end to the matter.

According to the statement, the social media post reflected Folau’s “genuinely held religious beliefs” and “did not intend to harm or offend” any person.

It continued: “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.”

Rugby Australia, in turn, said it does not “in any way agree with the content” of the social media post and affirmed its commitment to welcome members of the LGBTI community to the game.

“While it was not Rugby Australia’s intention, Rugby Australia acknowledges and apologises for any hurt or harm caused to the Folaus. Similarly, Mr Folau did not intend to hurt or harm the game of rugby and acknowledges and apologises for any hurt or harm caused,” asserted the two parties.

They further wished each other well in the future and said that the terms of the agreement will remain confidential.

It’s believed that RA likely made a substantial payment to Folau to bring the matter to an end but the settlement is unlikely to fully appease members of the LGBTQ community. In November, Folau made headlines again after claiming in a sermon at his Sydney church that Australia’s bushfires were due to God’s fury over same-sex marriage.

In a video message, which included his wife, netballer Maria, Folau said that he was “extremely please” with the settlement. “With today’s acknowledgement and apology by Rugby Australia, we have been vindicated and can now move on with our lives to focus on our faith and our family,” he said.

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