Yesterday, Rugby Australia and Israel Folau released a joint statement, which declared the two had settled their legal dispute, that Folau did not mean offence but that Rugby Australia did not share his views. The union has, in this act, failed its LGBT community and failed rugby as a sport.
It is no coincidence that the decision comes so soon after Folau increased his demands, having last week stated that he would be be increasing his compensation claim from A$10m to A$14m.
Reports earlier this year suggested even paying out A$10m could potentially bankrupt Rugby Australia, and so announcement this cannot be read as anything but a weak and cowardly capitulation by Australia’s governing body, who have let Folau bully them financially and get away with blatant homophobia.
The statement presents a unified front, reading “while it was not Rugby Australia’s intention, Rugby Australia acknowledges and apologises for any hurt or harm caused to the Folaus. Similarly, Mr Folau did not intend to hurt or harm the game of rugby and acknowledges and apologises for any hurt or harm caused.”
How can Rugby Australia, which presented such a strong case against Folau just months ago, condemning his actions unilaterally as an unacceptable breach of contract and an affront to the rugby’s reputation, now produce such a cosy press release with a clear conscience?
Reports from the Daily Telegraph have since suggested that Folau received as much as A$8m from Rugby Australia, so it is no surprise that in a personal statement Folau said he was “extremely pleased” with the outcome and that he felt “vindicated.”
“We started this journey on behalf of all people of faith to protect their rights of freedom of speech and religion,” Folau went on. “We now look forward to the federal government enacting the legislation necessary to further protect and strengthen these rights for all Australians.”
That Folau should seek to present himself as a campaigner for freedom of speech and religion is utterly ridiculous. What publicly minded campaigner seeks A$14m in compensation? What sort of multi-millionaire uses religion as a cover to crowdfund their legal fees online? What sort of person uses the death of citizens in a wildfire to push their own conservative agenda?
Israel Folau has used his religion as a front for homophobia and to excuse his own personal greed, and Rugby Australia have allowed him to do so. They should be feel disgusted with themselves.
Written by Joe Ronan