Waleed Aly has weighed in on the controversy surrounding rugby star Israel Folau, moments before a new fund was set up by the Australian Christian Lobby to support his fight against Rugby Australia – and it had a starting donation of $100,000.
Folau’s GoFundMe campaign was pulled down amid an outpouring of criticism from the public just hours ago – days after he launched the online appeal in which he asked the public to donate $3 million towards his costly legal fight.
Speaking about the move on Channel 10’s The Project on Monday night, Aly questioned whether the decision would make any real difference.
“Step back for a moment… So now this page has been taken down, what exactly has been achieved?” he asked during a discussion on the show. “He’ll still raise the funds, he’ll raise probably more now as a result of this.”
Folau’s team has since branded the decision to pull down the page as “very disappointing”.
“Unfortunately, GoFundMe has buckled to demands against the freedom of Australians to donate to his cause,” they said in a statement, according to Fox Sports. “There appears to be a continuing campaign of discrimination against Israel and his supporters.”
Aly went on to refer to a line of the statement which stated that several organisations have since offered to help the rugby star, and added: “So he probably raises more money as a result of this… I just don’t know, I feel like everyone is just trying to win every little skirmish in the battle rather than letting it play out.”
He went on: “He’ll end up in court and there will be a resolution to this that way. I’m just not sure what either side thinks they’ve achieved.”
Peter Helliar attempted to explain the decision on the show by saying: “This is about GoFundMe being a private enterprise and putting their flag in the sand and saying this is where we stand,” to which Price added: “If you went through every GoFundMe cause that’s been up there for years, however long they’ve been running, I’m sure you could find plenty that you’d think were unacceptable.”
Shortly after the discussion, the Australian Christian Lobby launched a new fundraising page to support Folau’s legal fight, with the group’s managing director Martyn Iles sharing a link to the page on his Twitter profile and writing: “So, been chatting with @IzzyFolau and we fixed it… #standwithizzy.”
ACL kicked the fundraising off with a $100,000 donation, and a description on the page read: “On behalf of the Australian Christian Lobby, I have spoken to Israel Folau to let him know that ACL will be donating $100,000 to his legal defence, because it’s right and it sets an important legal precedent.
“I have also offered to host his online appeal for funds here on our website and he has accepted our offer. All gifts you give on this web page will be deposited into a trust account to pay for Israel Folau’s legal case. So, please give generously today to help Israel Folau stand for your religious freedom.”
Just hours in, it had already raised almost $50,000 on top of the $100K still to come from ACL (at the time of publication).
According to Business Insider, the former Waratahs star’s GoFundMe campaign was removed as it violated the company’s terms and conditions. A spokesperson told the news outlet that GoFundMe would be issuing full refunds to everyone who donated cash to his cause.
“After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service,” the spokesperson said. “As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity. While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion.
“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.”
Folau launched a legal appeal against Rugby Australia’s decision to terminate his contract earlier this month. In a statement shared just two weeks ago, the 30-year-old player said he felt his treatment by Rugby Australia and the Waratahs had left him with no choice but to stand up for his beliefs and the rights of all Australians.
Rugby Australia tore up his four-year contract after he shared posts on social media which suggested homosexuals, among other social groups, would be going to hell.