Sacked rugby star in anti-gay row asks for donations

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-48714601

Israel Folau in a Wallabies uniform on fieldImage copyright
PA WIRE

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Israel Folau says his legal fight is about religious freedom

Rugby player Israel Folau, who was sacked by Rugby Australia (RA) for criticising gay people, has appealed for public donations to help him legally contest his dismissal.

Folau, a 30-year-old star full-back, had his contract terminated in May after posting on social media saying “hell awaits” gay people.

The devout Christian argues his firing was unlawful and an act of religious discrimination.

RA says he breached a code of conduct.

The former Wallabies player has drawn widespread condemnation for his social media comments, but he also has vocal supporters.

On Friday, Folau released a video to launch a crowd-funding campaign aiming to raise A$3m (£1.6m; $2.1m) for his legal case.

He filed a case against RA and Rugby New South Wales at the Fair Work Commission – Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal – earlier this month.

“Every Australian should be able to practise their religion without fear of discrimination in the workplace,” he says in the fundraising video.

“Even people who don’t share my beliefs have defended my right to uphold and express them.

“If you want to join this journey with me, to fight for the right to freedom of religion, please donate.”

Folau has played 73 Tests for Australia and was estimated to be on a contract worth A$5m. He owns a multi-million dollar property portfolio in Sydney and Brisbane, Australia’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

Folau said he and his wife had already spent more than A$100,000 on legal fees, after engaging a top legal team.

‘High-level breach’

RA has consistently defended their firing of the star full-back, saying he breached player behaviour standards “including respectful use of social media”.

It had previously warned Folau over anti-gay messages he had posted on social media in the past.

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Media captionHow do you get rid of homophobia in football and rugby?

In May, chief executive Raelene Castle said RA had terminated his contract to “stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork”.

Folau also lost sponsorship deals with companies including car manufacturer Land Rover and sportswear brand Asics.

He could be seeking up to A$10m in damages through the Fair Work Commission, media reports say.