Australia rugby star Folau sacked for social media rant
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Australian rugby chiefs have sacked star player Israel Folau for his latest social media rant against homosexuals and others he considers immoral. The 30-year-old full-back was found guilty of a high-level breach of Rugby Australia's code of conduct last week.
A three-member panel announced it had decided to terminate Folau’s 2.5 million euro four-year contract.
The full-back, who has 72 hours to appeal, issued a statement in which he said he was saddened by the decision. He added he was considering his options.
Folau went to the tribunal to challenge Rugby Australia's intention to fire him after he posted on Instagram: "Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators – Hell awaits you."
Rugby Australia chief, Raelene Castle, said the outcome was a painful situation for the game.
"Rugby Australia did not choose to be in this situation. But Rugby Australia's position remains that Israel, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue this course of action.
"Our clear message to all rugby fans today is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork."
While Folau's post sparked outrage, Rugby Australia's handling of the case has upset players of Pacific island heritage who say they fear their religious beliefs are under attack.
However, Castle added: "When we are talking about inclusiveness in our game, we're talking about respecting differences as well.
"When we say rugby is a game for all, we mean it. People need to feel safe and welcomed in our game regardless of their gender, race, background, religion, or sexuality."
Folau, who has played 73 Tests, was one of the sport's most marketable players. Sponsor ASICS has dropped him from their roster.
The furore has undermined Australia's preparations for the forthcoming World Cup in Japan where they have been placed in Pool D with European champions Wales as well as Uruguay, Georgia and Fiji.