Rugby Australia and New South Wales are to terminate Israel Folau’s contract over discriminatory social media posts, the union has announced in a statement.
The Wallabies star was warned last year, but avoided any disciplinary action, for making homophobic comments on his social media channels.
The statement read: “As a code we have made it clear to Israel formally and repeatedly that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action. In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract.
“Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union have made repeated attempts to contact Israel both directly and via his representatives since 6.30pm on Wednesday, and at this point he has failed to communicate directly with either organisation.
“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. We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts.
“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.
“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 and no language that isolates, divides or insults people based on any of those factors can be tolerated.”
Folau was reminded of his social media obligations by RA chief executive Raelene Castle last year. There were also threats from sponsors of the Australian national team that they would withdraw support following his social media posts.
In this latest incident, a message published on his Instagram account on Wednesday read that “hell awaits” for “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators.”
Folau said on Instagram: “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.”
The 30-year-old has won 73 caps and would have been a key part of Australia head coach Michael Cheika’s World Cup plans this year. Last weekend, he broke the Super Rugby try-scoring record.
His contract, which is set to be terminated, with the Wallabies and Waratahs runs until 2022.
International Gay Rugby, the global organisation for gay and inclusive rugby clubs, welcomed the news.
Chair Ben Owen said: “The decision by Rugby Australia and the NSW Rugby Union today upholds rugby’s core values of respect and sportsmanship.
“Rugby has become one of the most inclusive sports on the planet, where players, spectators and officials, regardless of their ability, race, age, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression can enjoy the game without fear of discrimination by others.
“When someone like Folau makes statements like this, it sends a message that members of the LGBT community are less-than and it can have irreparable harm.
“On behalf of our gay and inclusive rugby community, we hope the decision made today sends a clear message to the world, that any kind of discrimination has no place in our sport.”