Former international Israel Folau has taken to social media to defend his GoFundMe page which he set up to raise funds for his legal battle against Rugby Australia.
Folau is filing a claim with the Fair Work Commission against Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs for unlawful dismissal on the grounds of religious discrimination.
The page has received over $723,000 in four days from almost 10,000 donors.
During the week, Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle admitted she was surprised that such a highly-paid athlete was asking for public donations.
“From our perspective [GoFundMe] is a place where sick children get support, so certainly it is not a strategy we thought was appropriate,” Ms Castle said.
“They [donors] have seen what the money is going to be used for and they have to make their own decision.”
The 30-year-old has since taken to social media to defend his actions as he has a “long and hard battle” on his hands.
“I am humbled and overwhelmed by the support I have received, for which I am very grateful.
“Unsurprisingly, I have been criticised by Rugby Australia and some sections of the media overnight,” Folau said.
“I decided to take legal action when Rugby Australia terminated my employment contract and ended my playing career after I expressed my religious beliefs on social media.
“I have received thousands of messages from supporters who believe discrimination in the workplace is wrong and has no place in Australia or anywhere else.”
A disclaimer at the bottom of Folau’s GoFundMe page states that the money donated does not necessarily have to be used to pay for his legal costs, however, in his social media post, Folau reassured his donors that the money will be used to fight Rugby Australia.
“The money that is donated will be used to fund my legal battle, which could take years.
“While the attacks against me have shown I have a big fight on my hands, I will stand strong.”
“If you choose to donate, within your capacity, I would be very grateful of your support for my legal case.
“For those not in the position to donate, I value your prayers and messages of support so much. God bless!”
Meanwhile, Netball Australia released a statement on Sunday confirming that no action would be taken against Folau’s wife, Maria, after she reposted her husband’s messages to her own social media and included a link to his GoFundMe page.