Folau crowdfunding shut down after Sh76m raised
Sacked Australia fullback Israel Folau’s crowdfunding campaign to raise money to fight his termination has been shut down by the GoFundMe platform, with more than A$750,000 (Ksh76,412,091) to be refunded to thousands of donors.
Folau launched his GoFundMe page on Friday, appealing for A$3 million he said he needed for a potentially long legal battle against Rugby Australia (RA) and his former Super Rugby team New South Wales Waratahs.
RA and the Waratahs tore up Folau’s four-year contract last month after the fundamentalist Christian was found guilty of a “high-level breach” of RA’s code of conduct for posting on social media that hell awaits homosexuals and other groups.
GoFundMe Australia’s regional manager Nicola Britton said the crowdfunding platform was “absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ people” and that Folau’s campaign had breached their terms of service.
“While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion,” Britton said in a statement on Monday.
“Today we will be closing Israel Folau’s campaign and issuing full refunds to all donors.”
Within 12 hours of the launch, Folau’s campaign had raised over A$250,000 from more than 2,500 donors despite criticism raining down on the 30-year-old on social media, including from former Wallabies team mate Drew Mitchell.
GoFundMe’s decision was polarising, drawing plenty of praise from LGBT groups on social media but also criticism from conservative Christians after the platform waited three days before acting.
“The haters and Christophobes have forced Israel Folau’s church into hiding and GoFundMe appears to have closed his account, in the usual illiberal way of woke corporates,” Miranda Devine, a conservative columnist for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, tweeted.
The controversy over Folau’s page also enveloped his wife Maria Folau, a professional netballer, who was pilloried for supporting her husband’s GoFundMe campaign on social media.
Netball SA, the governing body of the sport in South Australia state, was moved to issue a statement on Sunday saying she had not breached their social media policy.
Folau announced earlier this month that he had begun legal proceedings against RA and the Waratahs at the Fair Work Commission, an industrial tribunal, casting the action as the pursuit of his “right to religious freedom”.
Folau’s contract, signed late last year, was worth a reported A$5 million.