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Contract termination: legal battle with Rugby Australia

View profile for David Feakins
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Contract termination: legal battle with Rugby Australia

Israel Folau, a rugby player who was recently sacked by Rugby Australia following his homophobic comments made on social media, has had a controversial GoFundMe page shut down.

Folau had his contract terminated by Rugby Australia in May, after he said, “Hell awaits gay people”. This is not the first time Folau has been criticised for anti-gay posts on social media and, most probably, will not be the last. 

Following his dismissal, Folau requested donations from the public in order to fund his legal case against Rugby Australia. In Folau’s mind, his contract was terminated on the grounds of religious discrimination. He stated, “Every Australian should be able to practise their religion without fear of discrimination in the workplace”.

Folau was aiming to raise around $3million Australian Dollars towards his legal fees and the GoFundMe page had reached the equivalent of £414,000 (circa $758,000 Australian Dollars) in donations by the time it was shut down. GoFundMe said the page violated its rules and referred to their commitment to the LGBT+ community.

The matter will remain ongoing, with Folau reportedly seeking up to $10million Australian Dollars in compensation. The case will no doubt be widely reported. It will no doubt become a landmark case in respect of religious freedom of speech in Australia.

The case will also have wider implications on fellow sports stars, with some high profile athletes “liking” the social media comments made by Folau. This prompts the question as to how a professional athlete should behave, seeing as they are frequently perceived as role models. It also raises concerns as to why there are so few openly gay athletes at the highest level of sport. Folau’s comments in no way help the situation.

I am a lawyer based at our Colchester office and specialise in sports law. If you would like to talk to one of our dedicated employment lawyers, please contact me on 01245 453870 or david.feakins@birkettlong.co.uk 

 

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