Wallabies star Israel Folau has been sacked by Rugby Australia after a series of homophobic posts.
Full-back Folau, 30, was previously found to have committed a ‘high-level breach’ of their code of conduct.
The posts - made on both Twitter and Instagram - included a picture which stated ‘hell awaits’ for ‘drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators’.
Following the termination of his contract, a statement from the former international read: “It has been a privilege and an honour to represent Australia and my home state of New South Wales, playing the game I love.
“I am deeply saddened by today’s decision to terminate my employment and I am considering my options.
“As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to expression. 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 word. Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my country.
“I would like to thank my wife Maria for her love and encouragement to stay true to our beliefs. We have been humbled by the support we have received from family, friends, players, fans and the wider community.
“Thank you also to those who have spoken out in my defence, some of whom do not share my beliefs but have defended my right to express them.”
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Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle told media they were left with no choice in what was ‘a painful decision for the game’.
Ms Castle said: “We are here to announce that Wallabies and Waratahs player Israel Folau has today been issued a sanction directing termination of his playing contract for his high-level breach of the professional players’ code of conduct.
“The three-member panel of John West, QC; chair, Kate Eastman and John Boultbee, provided its final written decision today in relation to the code of conduct hearing over Folau’s social media post on April 10, 2019.
“While Rugby Australia accepts the panel’s decision directing termination of Israel Folau’s contract for his high-level breach of the code of conduct, we want to stress that this outcome is a painful situation for the game.”
“Rugby Australia did not choose to be in the situation, but Rugby Australia’s position remains that Israel, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue the course of action resulting in today’s outcome.
“This has been an extremely challenging period for rugby. This issue has created an unwanted distraction in an important year for the sport and for the Wallabies team.
“But our clear message for all rugby fans today is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork.”
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