Australian Rugby Star’s Contract to Be Terminated Over Anti-Gay Comments

SYDNEY, Australia — Australian rugby officials said on Thursday that they intended to terminate the contract of a star player, Israel Folau, after he posted anti-gay comments on social media.

Mr. Folau, 30, a devout Christian who plays rugby union for both the New South Wales Waratahs and Australia’s national team, the Wallabies, posted an image on his Instagram account on Wednesday warning “homosexuals,” “adulterers,” “atheists” and others that “hell awaits you.”

“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,” Raelene Castle, the chief executive of Rugby Australia, and Andrew Hore, the chief executive of New South Wales Rugby Union, said in a joint statement.

“We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts.”

The statement said both rugby organizations had made “repeated attempts to contact Israel” since Wednesday evening, to which he had not responded.

“In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract,” the statement concluded.

Mr. Folau signed a four-year, multimillion-dollar contract in February with the Wallabies and the Waratahs, both of which he joined in 2013 after six years playing rugby league and Australian rules football.

He is the fourth-highest try scorer in the Australian national team’s history, and on Saturday he became the leading try-scorer in the history of Super Rugby, a competition involving the Waratahs and 14 other teams from five countries. He has also been awarded the John Eales Medal for best Australian rugby player three times, more than anyone else.

His departure would leave the Wallabies without one of their top players less than six months before the Rugby World Cup, which starts in September in Japan.

Mr. Folau, a former Mormon who is now a member of the Pentecostal denomination Assemblies of God, has a history of making homophobic and transphobic comments.

On Tuesday, he commented on Twitter about the Tasmanian Parliament passing legislation to make gender optional on birth certificates, saying, “The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free.”

In September 2017, he expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage on Twitter even as his team, the Wallabies, was encouraging Australians to vote in favor of it in a nationwide postal survey.

Last April, Mr. Folau posted a comment on Instagram that God’s plan for gay people was “HELL” unless they “repent of their sins.” Rugby Australia issued him with a warning in response.

In a column later that month for Players Voice, an Australian sports site featuring writing by athletes, he wrote, “I do not have any phobia towards anyone.”

He also wrote: “This is not about money or bargaining power or contracts. 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.”




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