Australian rugby star Folau’s GoFundMe appeal shut down
SYDNEY (AP) — An online donation website has shut down the page of Wallabies fullback Israel Folau, who sought to raise 3 million Australian dollars ($2.1 million) to meet the legal costs of his challenge against the termination of his contract by Rugby Australia.
GoFundMe will issue refunds to 7,000 donors who had contributed more than $520,000 in four days to Folau’s cause before his online campaign was halted.
“After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service,” GoFundMe’s regional manager in Australia, Nicola Britton, told the Australian Associated Press.
Folau was fired after breaching Rugby Australia’s code of conduct for making homophobic comments on social media.
GoFundMe said that conflicted with its policies of inclusiveness.
“As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity,” Britton said. “While we welcome GoFundMe’s engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion.”
Folau, who describes himself as a devout Christian and says he was referencing the bible in his social media posts, has polarized opinion in Australia.
He has faced widespread criticism since he launched his appeal Friday for public donations to fund his legal challenge.
His AU$ 4 million ($2.8 million), four-year contract with Rugby Australia was terminated last month when the sport’s national governing body found he had breached the code of conduct.
The 30-year-old Folau listed gay people among a group of sinners whom he said would face damnation unless they repented. He had previously been warned after a similar post during Australia’s national debate over the legalization of gay marriage.
A spokesman for Folau was quoted by AAP as saying GoFundMe’s decision was disappointing and went against the rights of people to support Folau, who said he is fighting for his religious beliefs.
More than 95,000 people signed a petition calling on GoFundMe to take down Folau’s page, saying it violated the terms and conditions of the crowdfunding website.