Last week it was announced that Folau had been found guilty of breaching Rugby Australia’s code of conduct and that his contract would be terminated.
With no appeal, RA yesterday confirmed he had been sacked.
“The 72-hour window for Israel Folau to appeal his high-level Code of Conduct breach and sanction has expired,” a RA statement said. “As Folau has not notified the panel of his intention to appeal, the Code of Conduct process has now formally concluded.
“With the Code of Conduct matter complete, Folau’s employment contract will be terminated.”
Folau’s religious views became a subject of much controversy last year, when an Instagram follower asked him what God’s plan for homosexuals was, to which Folau replied: “Hell... unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”
In April, in another Instagram post, Folau posted a screenshot which listed various groups, including “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters”, bearing the words, “WARNING: HELL AWAITS YOU. REPENT! ONLY JESUS SAVES”. RA immediately denounced the post as homophobic.
Now here’s the thing.
Nobody, absolutely nobody, ever said he wasn’t allowed to be religious. Nobody ever said he wasn’t allowed to have his religious views. That’s not the issue.
Yet those who back him cannot see that. Yet they continue to see it as his right to religious freedom and - by extension, freedom of speech - having been taken away by RA. He was addressed by RA last year following his first social media post and told that there would be consequences if it happened again.
RA, as his employer, made their stance on the matter clear, and they also emphasised the inclusive nature the sport is striving towards. He knew what could happen if he condemned people to hell again.
Yet he did it again.
Such a blatant disregard to his contractual obligations wouldn’t be tolerated had it been any other repeated misstep, so why should it be tolerated in this case?
He breached RA’s code of conduct, and he did so knowingly. So as much as I, and I’m sure many others, feel for him, he should bare the consequences with the same kind of boldness he made those social media statements with.
What did he expect RA to do, give him a slap on the wrist and welcome him back like they didn’t have this conversation with him last year? Like sponsors didn’t threaten to pull out? Like it didn’t go against everything rugby is trying to work towards?
And that’s just the professional-misconduct part of it.
What about the fact, as a sports professional with so much influence, he ignored the responsibility that comes with it and the impact his words could have on so many people? Top ref Nigel Owens has addressed this very issue. But I guess Folau’s only care was spreading “the word”. And that’s fine, but then he should have accepted the consequences thereof without the initial resistance.
It’s a pity that his career has had to end like this. But rugby isn’t just a sport for Christians. And if RA had to excuse this, it would have sent a certain message and it could have landed rugby in a space it wouldn’t want to be in.@WynonaLouw