Australian rugby star Israel Folau has been found guilty of a code of conduct breach for a homophobic post the fullback made on social media that said “hell awaits” gay people.
Folau, who is a devout Christian, requested a hearing last month after being issued with the code of conduct breach that Rugby Australia believes warrants a termination of the 30-year-old’s contract.
The image posted by Folau on Instagram last month, which has not been deleted, listed “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters,” reading underneath, “Hell awaits you.”
Following a three-day hearing, Rugby Australia says that the disciplinary panel will “take further written submissions from the parties to consider the matter of sanction. A further update will be provided after the panel delivers its decision on sanction.”
Folau, who has made 73 appearances for the Wallabies, was expected to star for his country at this year’s World Cup.
In an opinion column for the Australian newspaper, former Australia rugby coach Alan Jones wrote that the Folau case was “a rugby crisis which has morphed into a social crisis which will open gigantic wounds in relation to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”
Warned about social media activity
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in April, Folau said he wouldn’t apologize for the post, which is the last update on his Instagram account.
“I’ll stand on what the Bible says,” said the 30-year-old. “I share it with love. I can see the other side of the coin where people’s reactions are the total opposite to how I’m sharing it.”
Folau’s contract with Rugby Australia runs until 2022. He was warned about his conduct on social media last year after making a comment saying that gay people would go to hell unless they repented.
Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle previously said that Folau had been warned about his social media activity, which now looks likely to result in his contract being terminated.
Folau has previously played Australian Rules and Rugby League professionally, but a potential return to the latter was ruled out when Australian Rugby League Commission (ALRC) chief Peter Beattie said Folau “fails the NRL’s inclusiveness culture.”
England international Billy Vunipola received a formal warning from the Rugby Football Union and his club Saracens after defending Folau in an Instagram post.
“What he’s saying isn’t that he doesn’t like or love those people. He’s saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be,” Vunipola wrote. “Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no?”