Australia

Israel Folau's GoFundMe page shut down amid outrage

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GoFundMe Australia has closed Israel Folau's campaign to raise money for his legal fight against Rugby Australia because it violates its terms of service.

Israel Folau's online campaign to raise money for his legal fight against Rugby Australia has been shut down.

GoFundMe Australia has taken down Folau's page - which had raised more than $750,000 of a $3 million target - and will issue refunds to all of the more than 7,000 donors.

Folau
Israel Folau has launched a GoFundMe campaign to fight his dismissal.
GoFundMe

"After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service," the company's regional manager in Australia Nicola Britton said.

The company's full statement said Israel Folau's campaign did not comply with GoFundMe's 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," the statement said.

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

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21 June: Israel Folau under fire for crowd-funding his legal battles
21 June: Israel Folau under fire for crowd-funding his legal battles

"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."

The executive director of Change.org Australia, Sally Rugg, said the crowdfunding website would also be requiring campaigns to comply with its company policy. 

Folau thanks supporters

Folau has launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission against Rugby Australia and is seeking up to $10 million in damages.

On Saturday, he thanked those who donated to his crowdfunding campaign for legal costs.

"I am humbled and overwhelmed by the support I have received, for which I am very grateful," he said in a post on Instagram.

He said the amount of support he had received had given him the confidence to continue his legal fight against Rugby Australia.

"Unsurprisingly, I have been criticised by Rugby Australia and some sections of the media overnight," Folau wrote in response to criticism from Rugby Australia.

Israel Folau has launched legal action against Rugby Australia and club side the Waratahs after his playing contract was terminated.
Israel Folau has launched legal action against Rugby Australia and club side the Waratahs after his playing contract was terminated.
AAP

On Friday, Rugby Australia head Raelene Castle said the crowdfunding strategy was inappropriate because it was competing for money being raised for other causes like care costs for sick children.

"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," Folau said in his statement to his 362,000 Instagram followers.

"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."

One of Israel Folau's former teammates, Drew Mitchell, who played alongside Folau in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, said he was disgusted at the many multiples of money flowing into the Folau campaign when compared to other campaigns for children with life-threatening health conditions.

In a Twitter post, Mitchell accused his former teammate of being greedy.

'Not good enough'

Meanwhile, netball great Liz Ellis on Sunday slammed the sport's peak body in Australia after it refused to sanction Israel Folau's wife for re-posting his controversial online fundraising campaign.

Maria Folau, who plays for Adelaide Thunderbirds in Super Netball, re-posted her husband's online campaign.

Netball Australia and the Super Netball league said no action would be taken in a joint statement released on Sunday.

"Yeah nah not good enough," former Australian Diamonds captain Liz Ellis wrote on social media in response.

"There is no room for homophobia in our game. Anyone who is seen to support or endorse homophobia is not welcome," she said.

The former captain of the national team and the Sydney Swifts said while she loved watching Maria Folau play she did not want her sport endorsing the views of her husband.

Israel Folau's $4 million contract was torn up in May after one of his social media posts citing the Bible was deemed homophobic.

"We will continue to support Maria as a valued member of the Thunderbirds and the Suncorp Super Netball league," the joint statement read.

Netball South Australia chief executive Bronwyn Klei also weighed in on the controversy, defending her organisation as committed to providing an inclusive environment.

"We also believe in fairness and perspective," she said, shortly before Folau took to the court for the Thunderbirds clash with the NSW Swifts in Adelaide on Sunday.

"Like millions of other people across Australia, Maria Folau uses her personal social media platform to share her life and beliefs with her family, friends and fans."

Ms Klei made clear Netball SA does not endorse the post, but said the social media policy has not been contravened.

"Maria is a key member of the Thunderbirds," she said.

"We continue to support her as we support all our players."

Additional reporting: AAP

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