Homophobic rugby player Israel Folau said he feels vindicated after settling out of court with Rugby Australia. But he’s not getting his jersey back and issued a statement saying he doesn’t support discrimination based on sexuality, even as he let stand assertions that LGBTQ individuals were destined for hell.
Folau, at one point the highest-paid player in the Rugby Australia league, was fired earlier this year for social media posts warning “Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators” that “Hell awaits you. Repent! Only Jesus saves.”
The league and Folau issued a joint statement with both parties backing off of their most critical stances.
On the part of Rugby Australia, the statement apologizes for any hurt or harm caused to Folau and said the infamous post "reflected Folau’s genuinely held religious beliefs." And it goes on to say that Folau did not intend to harm or offend any person.
Meanwhile, Folau says that he “wants all Australians to know that he does not condone discrimination of any kind against any person on the grounds of their sexuality and that he shares Rugby Australia’s commitment to inclusiveness and diversity.”
“Rugby Australia and Mr. Folau wish each other well for the future,” the statement concludes. “The parties do not intend to comment further on the terms of their settlement as it is confidential.”
But both sides have continued to address the matter in media.
Folau said in a YouTube video he felt “vindicated” and “extremely pleased” with the settlement, without revealing details about the deal. He and wife Maria said they can “now move on with our lives to focus on our faith and our family.”
“We started this journey on the part of all people of faith, to protect their rights of freedom of speech and religion,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rugby Australia leaders have said the settlement was the best way to avoid a prolonged and troubled fight, but chief executive Raelene Castle has suffered withering criticism and calls for her resignation over the decision. She dismissed some media speculation on the amount of the settlement as “wildly inaccurate.”
Castle told The Guardian the league still believes it was in the right to call out Folau’s social media posts.
“We stuck to our values that inclusiveness is core to the key of rugby," she said. "Taking this conversation further into a court situation was not helping the game and so we made a decision that gave us cost certainty that put us in the best financial situation in entering the new year in a positive way."