Just days after launching an online appeal in which he asked the public to donate $3 million towards his costly legal fight against Rugby Australia, Israel Folau’s campaign has been pulled down by GoFundMe amid an outpouring of criticism from the public.
The 30-year-old dual code star shared a video online last Thursday, titled ‘Looking for your support’, in which he revealed he has already spent more than $100,000 fighting his termination, arguing his former employers sacked him over his religious beliefs after he stood by anti-gay comments he shared on Instagram. He also shared a link to a GoFundMe page, as he asked fans to financially back his legal battle.
Now, just four days later, the sportsman’s fundraising page has vanished from the online crowdfunding platform, and an error message is now displayed which simply reads: “Campaign not found.”
According to Business Insider, the former Waratahs star’s campaign was removed as it violated the company’s terms and conditions. A spokesperson told the news outlet that GoFundMe would be closing Folau’s campaign on Monday and 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.”
Last week, Folau shared a link to a GoFundMe page alongside the video, in which he said: “As Australians we’re born with the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression,” before adding: “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 work.
“Rugby Australia tore up my employment contract for doing just that and that’s wrong. Every Australian should be able to practice their religion without fear of discrimination in the workplace.”
Following Folau’s public request for financial help, a Change.org petition was set up which called for the rugby player to be kicked off the fundraising platform and, so far, almost 100,000 people have pledged their support.
“Let’s get this farce of a fundraiser pulled from GoFundMe and leave the fundraising up to sick children, animal charities and other such worthy causes. Not rich brats that are self entitled and ignorant,” the petition reads.
It continues: “Furthermore, GofundMe Terms and Conditions state that it is prohibited to use their platform to raise funds that contribute to any campaign with the explicit purpose of involving the legal defense [sic] of hate, discrimination, intolerance of any kind relating to sexual orientation, sex, gender or gender identity.”
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.