A GoFundMe page set up by former Australian international Israel Folau to help cover his legal costs has raised almost $400,000 in two days.
Folau has launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission against Rugby Australia following their decision to terminate his contract due to a high-level breach of the players’ professional code of conduct last month. Folau has said that he will take the matter to the High Court if the case is not settled.
The 30-year-old has appealed to the public for their support with the legal fees and is hoping to raise $3 million.
“My name is Israel Folau and, until recently, playing Rugby was my livelihood.
“I have had the honour and the privilege of representing my country on the sporting field, for which I will be forever grateful.
“I am also a Christian. My faith is the most important thing in my life. I try to live my life according to the Bible and I believe it is my duty to share the word of the Bible.
“Earlier this year, I uploaded some messages from the Bible on my Instagram page. I believe that sharing the Bible is an act of love and compassion.
“I know some people do not like or believe in the Bible. Indeed, what makes our country so wonderful is that we have such a diverse community made up of so many different cultures and values. But my faith defines me as a person. I do not believe that it is fair or right that I be punished for my religious beliefs.
“Sadly, after I uploaded the messages from the Bible, my employers, Rugby Australia and Rugby NSW, tore up my employment contract. As a result, I have lost my job, my livelihood, and the ability to play for my country. It looks like I will never be allowed to play rugby in this country again.”
While the GoFundMe page has received donations from nearly 5,000 people, many have taken to social media to strongly criticise the actions of the former Waratahs star.
YOU are in a fight that YOU chose to be in after YOU broke the terms of YOUR contract, the kids below are in a fight they NEVER wanted to be in & yet YOU think YOU deserve donations more than they do??!!
— Drew Mitchell (@drew_mitchell) June 21, 2019
During an interview on Friday morning, Folau told Alan Jones that it was his duty to “stand up for the word of God” while he admitted that he was shocked at the reaction of some of his teammates following his social media posts.
“It was quite a shock and to me,” Folau said. “Whether or not that was really what they meant, I don’t take any of those things personal. I have no harsh feelings towards them.
“If I do carry and hate or judgmental feelings towards them, I’m actually going against the very thing that I actually believe in and what my faith speaks about.”
A disclaimer was also added to the bottom of Folau’s plea on the GoFundMe page.
“In making this contribution I acknowledge that my contributions are made freely as a gift on the basis previously affirmed and that there will be no obligations on Israel Folau to do anything for me in recognition of the gift or to apply the funds in any particular way with respect to his legal action, and that I hold no expectation to receive anything in return for my contribution.”