Wallabies superstar Israel Folau has been sacked by Rugby Australia after he posted homophobic comments on Instagram.
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle and NSW Rugby Union chief executive Andrew Hore issued a statement on Thursday night saying they had unsuccessfully made “repeated attempts” to contact the fiercely religious Folau “both directly and via his representatives” since Wednesday at 6.30pm.
“Whilst Israel is entitled to his religious beliefs, the way in which he has expressed these beliefs is inconsistent with the values of the sport,” the statement read.
“We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts.”
Folau had been warned – but not sanctioned – after testing Castle’s patience with a series of homophobic posts last year, most notably one that said “God’s plan for gay people was “HELL”.
Matildas captain Sam Kerr had labelled Folau’s post “embarrassing”, while Welsh rugby great Gareth Thomas said he felt sorry for Folau.
“To everyone who reads it, don’t be influenced by his words. Be the better person and be YOU. Whoever YOU is..Hell doesn’t await YOU.Happiness awaits YOU,” Thomas tweeted.
Rugby Australia’s integrity unit was asked to investigate.
“Israel has failed to understand that the expectation of him as a Rugby Australia and NSW Waratahs employee is that he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality,” the statement continued.
“Rugby is a sport that continuously works to unite people. We want everyone to feel safe and welcome in our game and no vilification based on race, gender, religion or sexuality is acceptable.
“No language that isolates, divides or insults people based on any of those factors can be tolerated.”
The statement said “in the absence of compelling mitigating factors”, Folau, who turned 30 on April 3, will have his multimillion-dollar, four-year contract terminated unless he can explain his latest social media attacks.
The Instagram post proclaimed hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters”, then Folau added a Bible extract: “Those that are living in Sin will end up in hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.”
Folau, who on Saturday became Super Rugby’s all-time leading try scorer, only recommitted to Australian rugby and the Wallabies two months ago.
The code-hopping star had threatened to walk away from the game last year, saying his faith would always win over rugby.
“This is not about money or bargaining power or contracts,” Folau said at the time.
“It’s about what I believe in and never compromising that, because my faith is far more important to me than my career and always will be.”
Folau’s expected sacking is a hammer blow for Wallabies coach Michael Cheika just five months out from the World Cup.
The Rugby Australia announcement was not met with universal acclaim.
Not a fellow traveller with #IsraelFalou with his fire & brimstone, Old Testament god bothering – but he loses his job because he holds views that can be found in Bibles the length and breadth of the country.
Do we burn the books as well now?
— Francis Leach (@SaintFrankly) April 11, 2019
Folau played rugby league with Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos, earning State of Origin honours for Queensland and playing for the Kangaroos.
He shifted to AFL for the 2011 season, where he was signed by Greater Western Sydney and played in the Giants’ inaugural AFL season before defecting to rugby union for 2013.
He has since won the John Eales Medal as the Wallabies best player on three occasions.
He was vocal in his opposition to same-sex marriage and married New Zealand netballer Maria Tuta’ia in 2017.