Dumped rugby union star Israel Folau’s crowdfunding campaign has attracted more than $500,000 in donations in the hope of raising $3 million to fund his legal case against Rugby Australia (RA).
By 3pm on Saturday, the GoFundMe page had attracted $536,510 in donations, raised by 6860 people in less than 48 hours.
The 30-year-old Wallabies back said the donations will go toward subsidising the costs associated with fighting RA after his $4 million contract was terminated last month over a series of homophobic social media posts.
“I believe the termination of my contract is unlawful, which is why I have started legal proceedings against Rugby Australia and Rugby NSW,” Folau, who also posted a video on his own website, said on the GoFundMe website.
Speaking to Sydney shock jock Alan Jones on radio 2GB on Friday, Folau insisted the drawn-out battle against RA’s termination of his $5 million contract was driven by Christian principles, not money.
“My faith is what defines me as a person, that is who I am. My identity is found in my faith and that is the whole reason I am wanting to stand up and fight this,” Folau told Jones’ morning program.
“Everything I do and everything I live by is based on the principles of what is written in [the bible].
“A lot of this [legal battle] doesn’t make any sense, you know. It’s been a little bit inconsistent. It’s been tough.”
However, former Wallabies teammates spoke out against his crowdfunding plea, describing the money grab was motivated by “greed”.
Folau launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission and is seeking a $10 million pay-out from RA, along with other financial damages that may come about as a result of his sacking.
He claims to have already forked out more than $100,000 from his own pocket “just to try and deal with Rugby Australia’s internal tribunal processes”.
“The money I am asking for is solely to fund the rest of my action in court.”
Folau said he intends on taking his case to the High Court if a deal is not struck with RA.
“Even if I win, Rugby Australia can appeal. There is every chance that a prominent test case like this could take years and eventually end up in the High Court of Australia,” he wrote.
“I know I am putting myself on the line – this action will be very costly in terms of time, money and reputation – but I do not intend to stop now.
“I would be very grateful for your support.”
Folau revealed he was also fighting for “religious freedom” in a video attached to the GoFundMe page.
“Since my contract was terminated I have been overwhelmed and humbled by the support received from family, friends, fans and the public. Even people who don’t share my beliefs have defended my right to uphold and express them.
“They made me realise I’m not just fighting for my future and my family; I’m fighting for what is right. But I can’t do it alone.”
In May, a three-member panel provided a final written decision in relation to the code of conduct hearing over Israel Folau’s social media post on April 10 which said homosexuals were destined for hell unless they repented their sins.
RA decided that Folau had violated RA’s professional players’ code of conduct, saying his controversial post constituted a “high-level” breach.