Australia

'Buckled to demands': Folau team responds to GoFundMe shut down

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Representatives of Israel Folau has slammed the decision made by crowdfunding platform GoFundMe to shutdown his appeal for $3 million to cover his legal fees, saying it had "buckled to demands against the freedoms of Australians".

Israel Folau has spoken out since GoFundMe removed the controversial footballer's fundraising campaign to help with his legal fees

“There appears to be a continuing campaign of discrimination against Israel and his supporters,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

It was also said the crowdfunding site had "buckled to demands against the freedoms of Australians”.

Israel Folau's GoFundMe page online
Israel Folau's GoFundMe page online
SBS

Folau wanted money to fund his legal battle against Rugby Australia, which terminated his $4 million contract in May after he posted on social media that hell awaited "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, and idolaters" unless they repented.

GoFundMe Australia took down Folau's crowdfunding page - which had raised more than $750,000 of a $3 million target - and said it would issue refunds to all of the donors.

Folau's spokesperson said the rugby union star was "very grateful to the 10,000-plus supporters who believed in good faith that their donations would contribute to his case against Rugby Australia.”

"Israel and his supporters have come under intense scrutiny in the media."

GoFundMe's full statement said Israel Folau's campaign did not comply with its policy, which advocates zero tolerance for discrimination or exclusion.

"As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity," GoFundMe Australia's regional manager Nicola Britton said.

"While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion."  

The former Wallaby's representative also said Folau's wife, netballer Maria Folau has been vilified for supporting him, and his website had become the subject of a "sustained cyber attack".

"While Israel does not intend to respond in detail at this time," the statement said.

"He wants it known that these attacks have hardened his resolve". 

Online, many welcomed the news. 

Folau's fundraiser caught the attention of the public on Friday and has sparked counter-campaigns raising money for LGBTIQ+ charities and group. These remain on GoFundMe's platform.

One Nation NSW leader Mark Latham, who defended Folau in his maiden speech to parliament earlier this year, suggested GoFundMe's decision was an "excessive use of corporate power".

Martyn Iles from the Australian Christian Lobby said GoFundMe was "discriminating while they say no discrimination".

"They just need to be truthful and say, You know what? We just don’t like what he believes," he said.

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