The coronavirus pandemic saw the sporting world grind to a halt with professional and grassroots sporting competitions being suspended. International Rugby was no exception.
Sporting leagues began returning in early June, albeit to empty stadiums at first. This was shortly after Black Lives Matter 2.0 erupted after the death of George Floyd. With wokeness now infecting the sporting world, many leagues including Australia’s AFL players took the knee before the start of each game of the opening round to virtue signal their support for BLM.
Most sports players capitulated to the social justice mob and took the knee. Taking the knee of course doesn’t do anything to fix injustices, but gets you easy plaudits.
But there have been a few sport stars brave enough to stand up to the woke mob, literally stand up and not take the knee before a sports match. One of them is Australia’s own Israel Folau during the first two matches of recommenced European Super Rugby League season.
Folau signed for the French team the Catalan Dragons back in January of this year. After his unfair dismissal case with Rugby Australia in 2019 many sports, commentators claimed that Israel Folau would never be able to obtain another playing contract.
His refusal to take the knee was defended by his team coach Steve McNamara “some players and staff who made the decision not to take the knee. That was based on personal choice, they have their own reasons for doing that, and we decided we would respect anyone’s personal choice on the matter.”
But in August 2020 Israel Folau is still standing and won’t bow down to any mob. Not the LGBT lobby, not the BLM movement. This sent his greatest Australian rugby critic Peter Fitzsimons into another episode of shock. Although he defended Folau’s right not take the knee, he was still shocked and said it wasn’t a great look.
Israel Folau vs Raelene Castle
Folau has also had the last laugh against Rugby Australia which is still in a state of complete irrelevancy. Its new Super Rugby AU competition launched on July 3 with hardly any fanfare. International Rugby will not relaunch for a long time with international borders still firmly closed.
Rugby Australia’s public image is still suffering the damage caused by its former CEO Raelene Castle’s decision to terminate the contract of their most high profile and talented player in May 2019.
The New Zealand born Castle was appointed CEO of Rugby Australia in 2017 with much fanfare for being the first female CEO of the code.
Her tenure will most be remembered for her ultimate decision to terminate the contract of star Wallabies player Israel Folau over his sinners Instagram post in April 2019 which Folau refusing to take down.
Castle and Folau first clashed over his religious views in 2019 when an Instagram user had asked Folau (we don’t know if it was asked in good faith) what God’s plan for gay people was?
Folau followed up this exchange by penning a column for Athlete’s Voice magazine titled “I’m a sinner too” which he stated he would “walk away” from his contract “if the situation had become untenable” for Rugby Australia.
Following this Folau and Castle successfully held a conciliation session. While he was not sanctioned Castle told the media “Rugby Australia will use this experience as an opportunity to remind all employees of their obligation to use social media in a respectful way.”
Folau Contract Termination
On 10th April 2019, Folau posted on his Instagram account quoting the bible passage Galatians which states sinners who will not inherit the kingdom of God. It was accompanied by a more forthright meme warning sinners that hell awaits you and you must repent as only Jesus saves.
Despite Folau listing eight different categories of sinner who needed to repent and be saved by Jesus it was the LGBT activists who were the most offended.
On this occasion, Rugby Australia took more extreme disciplinary action issuing Folau with a code of conduct breach notice which recommended his $4 million a year Rugby Australia contract be terminated. Folau decided to challenge his breach notice with his fate decide a three-person Rugby Australia panel on May 7.
They panel found him found guilty of a high-level breach of the players’ code of conduct. His playing contract was formally terminated on May 17 one day before the 2019 federal election which was coincidently made on The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
There was much outrage at Folau’s sacking, not only from fellow Christians defending him for expressing his deeply held Biblical beliefs, but also from secular supporters of free speech and religious freedoms.
Unfair Dismissal Case
Folau decided in June to challenge his contract termination by Rugby Australia at the Fair Work Commission, seeking $10 million in compensation. He decided to open up a GoFundMe Legal Action Fund.
There was much controversy about Isreal Folau deciding to crowdfund his unfair dismissal case given the wealth he had already accumulated from his successful sporting career to date. However, this controversy did not stop Folau supporters and other defenders of religious freedom from donating to his GoFundMe.
The controversy around Folua’s GoFundMe saw the crowdfunding company decide to invoke a clause in its terms of service against the “promotion of discrimination or exclusion” to remove the campaign from its platform and refund those who donated.
The Australian Christian Lobby under Director Martin Ilyes restarted Folau’s legal fundraiser utilising their existing donation payment processing function. They raised $2 million in three days and closed the successful campaign after reaching that enormous monetary number.
With Rugby Australia and Israel Folau both vowing that they wouldn’t back down from their respective positions and were prepared for a prolonged legal battle, many were surprised that Australia’s most high-profile unfair dismissal case ended with an out of court settlement in December last year.
The financial figure was not disclosed but both Rugby Australia and Isreal Folau apologised to each other for how their relationship eventually disintegrated. Both sides in reaching the settlement claimed victory.
When coronavirus restrictions led to the suspension of all professional sports competitions Castle’s list of shortcomings. The most alarming were a $120 million revenue black hole and a breakdown of negotiations with current broadcaster Foxtel about a new rights deal.
At the beginning of April, it was reported that New Rugby Australia board members Virgin Australia co-founder Brett Godfrey, Supercars chairman Peter Wiggs, and former Wallaby Daniel Herbert were not fans of her direction and might advocate showing her the door. Castle resigned on April 23rd to allow Rugby Australia “clear air” stating “I made it clear to the board that I would stand up and take the flak and do everything possible to serve everyone’s best interests”.
Garry Burns Anti-Discrimination Complaint
Shortly after the settlement Garry Burns, a homosexual serial litigant lodged an anti-discrimination complaint of homosexual vilification about Folau’s Instagram post under the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board.
The most frequent target of Burns anti-discrimination complaints has been former Australian Defence Force officer Bernard Gaynor. Burns had launched a total of 36 complaints to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board against Gaynor since 2014.
Gaynor has been in the public domain he was a member of Katter’s Australian Party and defended a provocative party ad against same-sex marriage in 2012. Gaynor later stood as a Senate candidate for the Australian Liberty Alliance in 2016.
Gaynor’s commentary and activism saw him discharged from the Australia Defence Force, a dismissal Gaynor failed to overturn on appeal. Since his departure from the ADF has Gaynor operated a personal blog showcasing his conservative catholic beliefs, activism and convictions.
It should be noted that Bernard Gaynor has always been a resident of Queensland yet Burns had attempted to bring him before a tribunal that did not have jurisdiction over Queensland.
Gaynor wasn’t the only non-NSW target of Burns’ litigation. One was Tess Corbett a Victorian grandmother who made comments about gay rights and pedophile rights in the same statement. This end result of the Corbett complaint (and another interstate resident he also made a complaint against) was the High Court of Australia ruling Burns could not lodge complaints against non-NSW residents. The High Court also ordered him to pay costs for the failed complaints.
After attempting to bankrupt political opponents like Gaynor it was now Garry Burns suffering financial difficulty hardship. Still wanting to pursue complaints he launched a GoFundMe campaign, with the Folau complaint the main drawcard.
In a refreshing decision the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board rejected Burns’ complaint against Folau in April on the grounds that it was “vexatious”. The Board President Annabelle Bennett called the complaint “a flagrant abuse of process such that no further actions should be taken”.
However, Bennett went further in her statement that she believes Burns did not lodge the complaint “in order to avail himself of the processes afforded under the ADA but for a collateral purpose, as a means to pressure the respondent to settle with him” and “directed to the payment of money”.
In response to the dismissal of his complaint, Garry Burns claimed he was seeking to have his complaint referred to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
He told the media “Fellas, I’m just like a vicious Alsatian dog. Once I grab hold of the leg, I don’t let go until the bone is bare and bloodied. One way or another, I will get that remedy from Mr Folau.” Burns was seeking an apology and a $100,000 donation to charity from Folau.
After his Folau complaint flop, Garry Burns declared bankruptcy. He had tried to lobby the New South Wales taxpayer to cover the legal debts incurred through all his complaints but there is no way that was going to happen.
The failure of Burns’ complaint against Isreael Folau has triggered momentum to reform the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 o prevent vexatious litigation. One Nation MLC Mark Latham has proposed amendments that would compel the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board to Reject vexatious and frivolous complaints against people with brain damage. It would also prevent such complaints being lodged at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Still Outperforming His Critics
Whether it be Raelene Castle, GoFundMe, Peter Fitzsimons or Garry Burns Israel Folau is still vastly outperforming his critics and those who have attempted to destroy his career and reputation. This is due to his perfect blend of pure sporting talent and his firm personal convictions.