SYDNEY – Sportswear company ASICS dumped Israel Folau as a brand ambassador Wednesday over homophobic comments.
The devoutly Christian player on Tuesday was found guilty of a "high-level" breach of the sport's code of conduct after posting an anti-gay statement on social media, leaving his career hanging in the balance.
He faces his lucrative four-year Rugby Australia contract being terminated, with the three-person code of conduct panel taking written submissions from his legal team and the governing body before deciding on his punishment.
Rugby Australia moved to sack him after he posted a banner on Instagram last month that read: "Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators -- Hell awaits you." It followed a similar tirade last year.
ASICS, which is also a leading Wallabies sponsor, severed ties with Folau, saying "we believe sport is for everyone and we champion inclusively and diversity".
"While Israel Folau is entitled to his personal views, some of those expressed in recent social media posts are not aligned with those of ASICS," it added in a Facebook statement.
"As such, our partnership with Israel has become untenable and he will no longer represent ASICS as a brand ambassador."
Last year ASICS renewed its contract with Rugby Australia for a further six years.
Folau's case has proved complex and divisive, pitting his right to free speech against the offence he has caused others and damage to rugby's reputation.
It has split opinion with several Pacific Island-origin players supporting him, while others, including within the Wallabies camp, have been critical.
The code of conduct panel could decide to fire Folau, or issue fines or suspensions.
No timescale was given for its decision, with legal experts warning that whatever happens an appeal is likely, potentially followed by a drawn-out court battle.AFP