Israel Folau has broken his silence on the controversy surrounding his sacking, claiming that Rugby Australia (RA) offered him money to take down the controversial post.
Folau’s $4 million contract was terminated in May after he breached RA’s terms by sharing a social media post that warned “sinners” including drunks, homosexuals and liars would go to Hell if they did not repent.
Reiterating his views and controversial actions, the 30-year-old Folau claimed Thursday night that he wasn’t in breach of his contract.
When asked by Alan Jones in an interview on Sky News if RA had offered him money to take down the post, the rugby star said: “Yes. I said ‘no’. I couldn’t do that”.
“As a person convicted by my faith, I couldn’t live with that,” he said.
Following up the explosive claim, Peta Credlin then asked if RA had offered the money to “make the problem go away”?
“Yes, that’s how they looked at it,” he said.
“I feel like I was backed into a corner … That I had to compromise in order to agree to what they were asking.
“In the end, like I said, I couldn’t do it because my faith to me is what is most important.”
Asked by Jones if there was anything in his contract that dictated what he should say online, the former Wallaby simply replied: “Nah”.
Folau said his social media comments came from a place of love.
“It certainly comes from a place of love. It’s nothing personal. It’s just wanting to share that message of love that God is trying to extend that to all people,” he said.
“I can certainly see it from both sides.
“If I had a child that was a drug addict, I would certainly still love my child without anything attached to that.
“It’s something that I’m trying to share in love. That’s the way I look at it in sharing the Bible and the passages with my fellow men each day.”
An RA spokesman later vehemently denied Folau’s claims to The New Daily.
“Following comments made on Alan Jones television show tonight, any suggestion that Rugby Australia offered Israel Folau money to remove a post made on April 10, 2019, is completely untrue,” the spokesman said.
Folau is seeking $10 million in damages from RA on the basis of discrimination on religious grounds, and he wants his contract reinstated.
RA and Folau are scheduled to meet on Friday for a conciliation meeting at the Fair Work Commission.
Folau said he would be asking for an apology and an admission that RA was wrong to sack him.
Earlier on Thursday, RA’s chief executive Raelene Castle reiterated the organisation’s stance as having “acted with complete professionalism”.
“Rugby Australia has acted with complete professionalism and integrity at all times through the process by which Israel was found, by an independent three-member tribunal panel, to have made multiple, serious breaches of the Professional Players Code of Conduct,” Ms Castle’s statement read.
“The panel found the breaches constituted a high level and directed Rugby Australia to terminate Israel’s contract.”
The Sky News interview follows the Australian Christian Lobby’s decision to “pause” its fundraising campaign for Folau’s legal fight on Thursday after donations soared beyond $2 million.
More than 20,000 people had donated more than $2.2 million by Thursday morning – only $800,000 short of Folau’s $3 million target.
Some legal academics say the case could be used as a “Trojan horse” by which religious freedom laws that marginalise the LGBTQIA+ community could be pushed through federal Parliament.
Australian National University senior law lecturer Dilan Thampapillai said Folau’s comments were “hurtful”, but added others have said “worse things and have not suffered any consequences”.
“Folau should not be a scapegoat for Australia’s past history of homophobia,” Professor Thampapillai told The New Daily.
“If the religious freedom laws get up, then this matter has been counter-productive for LGBTI Australians.”