“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.”
So reads the disclaimer at the end of the newly created ‘Israel Folau Legal Action Fund’ on GoFundMe. A page Israel Folau has set up in order to raise the $3m he claims is necessary to help him pay his legal fees, and a page that has raised over $250,000 in 12 hours.
In this instance, the devil really is in the detail, for the small print at the bottom of his page says a thousand words. Ultimately, Folau is not obligated to use the entirety of the money raised to pay for his solicitors, prompting ex-teammate and Wallabies legend Drew Mitchell to declare, “It’s no longer about religion, it’s about YOU and YOUR greed,” a condemnation echoed by fellow former Wallabies Matt Burke.
Claiming he has already spent $100,000 of his own money on legal fees is no justification for this action. The situation Folau is in, as Mitchell stressed on Twitter, is one of his own creation. So, to seek the aid of others to finance it, when he is one of the wealthiest players in Australian sport, is ridiculous. Frankly, it borders on moral blackmail of Australia’s Christian community.
At 21 years old Folau signed a $500,000 contract with the Brisbane Broncos. In 2015 he signed a three-year deal with Rugby Australia thought to be worth, with bonuses and third party additional included, up to $2m annually. His current (or most recent) contract, terminated by Rugby Australia so controversially earlier this year, was worth $4m. That he is seeking financial support from the average Christian is inexplicable. Surely a man with such enormous riches can afford to fight his own spiritual crusade, or however it is that Folau conceives of his actions?
Indeed, in an interview with Alan Jones, Folau declared it was his mission to ‘stand up for the word of God.’ The word ‘mission’ implies personal duty, an arduous undertaking in the name of a good cause, but if this is so, why is he leaning on the ordinary, hardworking Christian for support, and why is he not guaranteeing all the money raised will go to his legal fees, or perhaps a Christian charity if any remains at the end?
Ultimately, this should not be surprising, for in this saga the contractions of Israel have been well documented and seemingly endless.
“Earlier this year,” he said “I uploaded some messages from the Bible on my Instagram page. I believe that sharing the Bible is an act of love and compassion.” Likewise, he has shown public clemency to teammates who have come out in criticism, such as Michael Hooper and Nick Phipps, suggesting, “If I do carry 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.”
But what was his Instagram post if not hate and judgement?
The whole debacle looks set to rumble onward, an unwelcome distraction for those in Australia preparing for the World Cup. However, this is surely the most ridiculous twist yet, and a clear indication that Folau’s intentions are not as morally watertight as he would have people believe.
Written by Joe Ronan