Sacked Wallabies star Israel Folau has raised over half a million dollars in donations for his legal battle with Rugby Australia.
The controversial figure had his $5m contract ripped up by the union in May after he made social media posts which cited Bible readings, which were deemed to be homophobic.
It was the second time in the space of a year that Folau, a devout Christian, had posted on Instagram and Twitter voicing his beliefs against the LGBT community.
Rugby Australia terminated his contract following the second outburst, after the national governing body deemed that the 30-year-old had breached their Code of Conduct.
Earlier this month, Folau launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commission against Rugby Australia, and the Waratahs, for a breach of contract of the Fair Work Act, which makes it unlawful for an individual’s employment to be terminated on the basis of religious belief, and is seeking $10m in damages.
The former 73-test veteran then established a Go Fund Me page earlier this week with the aim of raising $3m for his court battle by 10:55am on Saturday AEST.
At the time of writing, Folau had raised $514,267 from more than 6000 donators within two days of creating the page.
This is despite revelations from the Daily Telegraph of Folau sitting on a property portfolio of $7m, and recently sold a $500,000 Lamborghini.
The newspaper reported that the disgraced star owns six homes and three blocks of land across New South Wales and Queensland under his own name or through his investment company, which is estimated to have risen to $7m in value.
The publication of the page has sparked fierce and widespread backlash from the rugby community.
“From our perspective [Go Fund Me] is a place where sick children get support, so it’s certainly not a strategy we think is appropriate,” Folau’s former boss and Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said to Nine News.
Folau’s former Wallabies and Waratahs teammate Drew Mitchell has also been an outspoken advocate against Folau’s actions.
“YOU are in a fight that YOU chose to be in after YOU broke the terms of YOUR contract, the kids below are in a fight they NEVER wanted to be in & yet YOU think YOU deserve donations more than they do??!!,” he posted on Twitter.
YOU are in a fight that YOU chose to be in after YOU broke the terms of YOUR contract, the kids below are in a fight they NEVER wanted to be in & yet YOU think YOU deserve donations more than they do??!!
— Drew Mitchell (@drew_mitchell) June 21, 2019
However, former Australian Christian Lobby chief Lyle Shelton has defended Folau, saying: “if Israel loses, we all do.”
Folau said in his plea for donations that he had “the fight of his life on my hands”.
The case is unprecedented in rugby, and could be a landmark test for religious freedoms within Australia.
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