- Israel Folau’s GoFundMe page has been taken down.
- It comes after a Change.Org petition for his page to be removed.
- GoFundMe issued a statement to Business Insider Australia.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has opened a donation page for Israel Folau after his GoFundMe page was removed for violating the company’s terms of service and discriminating against the LGBTIQ+ community.
The new page was set up on ACL’s website on Monday night and has already raised more than $1.6 million. The funds raised through the site will be used for Folau’s legal expenses, as he fights Rugby Australia for terminating his contract following a series of homophobic social media posts.
ACL’s Managing Director Martyn Iles helped establish the alternative site and also donated $100,000 to Folau’s legal defence.
— Martyn Iles (@MartynLloydIles) June 24, 2019
Iles said in a statement that the success of Folau’s fundraiser was providing ‘quiet Australians’ a voice.
“By launching an alternative fundraising site to GoFundMe today, we are ensuring that the voice of quiet Australians continues to be heard, and Israel Folau continues to know that he is not alone,” he wrote.
Folau’s GoFundMe page, which called for donations to support his legal battle with Rugby Australia, was shut down by the platform on Monday and refunds will be issued to all donors. It came after a Change.Org petition to get Folau removed from GoFundMe.
On Monday, Nicola Britton, Regional Manager of GoFundMe Australia, told Business Insider Australia in an email:
“Today we will be closing Israel Folau’s campaign and issuing full refunds to all donors. After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service.
“As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity. While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion.
“In the days since Mr Folau’s campaign launched, more than one million dollars have been donated to hundreds of other campaigns, large and small, across Australia. Those acts of kindness are the heart of GoFundMe.
“Our platform exists to help people help others. Australians have shown themselves to be among the most kind and generous people in the world. We look forward to helping more Australians fundraise for causes they care about in the coming months and years.”
Israel Folau’s GoFundMe page was created on Tuesday 18 June and had raised more than $580,000 by Saturday towards his goal of $3 million, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The page was set up by the dumped football player to fund his legal fight against Rugby Australia, which sacked him in May over homophobic comments on social media.
There were calls for GoFundMe to shut down Folau’s page, particularly as the fundraising site displays a gay pride flag on its social media pages. Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle criticised Folau’s page and said, “From our perspective (Go Fund Me) is a place where sick children get support, so it’s certainly not a strategy we think is appropriate,” according to Nine News.
Folau also faced criticism from former teammate Drew Mitchell, who said on Twitter: “It’s no longer about religion, it’s about you and your greed.”
Folau’s wife, Maria, who plays for the Adelaide Thunderbirds netball team, was also criticised for supporting her husband by former Diamond’s captain Liz Ellis. Liz released a statement that said, “As much as I love watching Maria Folau play netball I do not want my sport endorsing the views of her husband.”
Yeah nah not good enough.
How about this:
There is no room for homophobia in our game. Anyone who is seen to support or endorse homophobia is not welcome. As much as I love watching @MariaFolau play netball I do not want my sport endorsing the views of her husband. pic.twitter.com/IR5jecVm6O
— Liz Ellis (@LizzyLegsEllis) June 23, 2019
Despite the backlash, Folau continued to push towards his fundraising goal. In an Instagram post on Sunday, Folau said he was “humbled” and “overwhelmed” by the support he had received. “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,” he wrote.
View this post on Instagram
Thank you to all those who have given to my Legal Action Fund so far. 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. 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. Sadly, Rugby Australia have said that they will devote significant resources to fight me in court. This shows I have a long and hard battle on my hands, which is why I am asking for your support. 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. Your support and my faith in Jesus Christ will give me strength. 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!
“Rugby Australia and the NSW Rugby Union made the decision to pursue the termination of Israel Folau’s contract because of a serious breach of the Professional Players Code of Conduct,” the sporting body said in a statement.
“This is an issue of an employee and his obligations to his employers within the contract that he signed. He was bound by a Code of Conduct for all professional players in Australia that spells out clear guidelines and obligations regarding player behaviour, including respectful use of social media.”
Folau has claimed his contract was unlawfully terminated because of his religious views. “No Australian of any faith should be fired for practising their religion,” Folau said in a statement.