SYDNEY (ChurchMilitant.com) - An Australian rugby player is losing his $4 million contract for social media comments about homosexuality.
A three-person panel determined Friday that Rugby Australia will sack fullback Israel Folau for social media posts listing homosexuals among those condemned to Hell. Ruby Australia — known as the Australian Rugby Union prior to 2017 — oversees the national union team, the Wallabies.
Folau considers himself a devout Christian. One of his recent Instagram posts warns that "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" will go to Hell unless they "REPENT."
Earlier this month, the three-person panel determined Folau was in grave violation of Rugby Australia's code of conduct owing to comments like this. The panelists then set about determining the proper punishment. They had the options of fining or suspending Folau, but chose to terminate his four-year, $4 million contract because the fullback has doubled down on his "homophobic" posts, instead of deleting them and apologizing.
Reportedly, Folau may have turned down a million-dollar settlement from Rugby Australia amid this debacle.
Blowback to things Folau has said on social media led sportswear company Asics to drop Folau from their sponsorship earlier this month.
Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle spoke about the termination of Folau's contract at a Friday press conference, saying, "In rugby, there is not a place for someone that puts their views or position in front of everyone else's."
"When we say rugby is a game for all, we mean it," Castle opined. "People need to feel safe and welcomed in our game regardless of their gender, race, background, religion, or sexuality."
Castle also commented, "While Rugby Australia accepts the panel's decision directing termination of Israel Folau's contract for his high-level breach of the code of conduct, we want to stress that this outcome is a painful situation for the game."
Folau was given 72 hours to appeal. He said of Friday's ruling, "I am deeply saddened by today's decision to terminate my employment and I am considering my options."
"As Australians," Folau opined, "we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression."
He continued, "The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God's word. Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club or country."
"It has been a privilege and an honor to represent Australia and my home state of New South Wales, playing the game I love," he declared.
Folau has already played 73 international games with the Wallabies. His contract with the Wallabies would have lasted until 2022.
This is not the first time the fullback caught flak for stating that homosexuals must repent.
In April 2018, an Instagram user asked Folau what he thinks God's will is for gay people. The rugby player replied, "HELL... Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God."
There was uproar in Australian and British media in the wake of the rugby star's comment.
Some two months later, there were efforts to drum up drama between Folau and David Pocock — then-teammates on the Wallabies. Pocock was a vocal supporter of same-sex "marriage."
However, both Folau and Pocock said that they were able to get along fine, despite their differences.
"We're both grown men and talk about things openly," Folau explained. "We just had an open chat about our different beliefs."
Likewise, Pocock commented, "I just don't see who wins if we aren't able to relate to each other as humans and keep talking about things, rather than having these really nasty, polarizing debates to decide who is and isn't part of our tribe based on their beliefs."
In the past, Pocock and his girlfriend had agreed not to get married until Australia recognized gay "marriage."
Australia's Parliament voted overwhelmingly to legally recognize same-sex "marriages" in December 2017. The parliament's decision came after a popular referendum showed that the majority of Australian citizens were in favor of gay "marriage."