Israel Folau’s attempt to crowdfund his legal fight against Rugby Australia has been shut down by GoFundMe Australia, who have labelled it as being in breach of the site’s terms of service. Folau launched the fundraising campaign last week, asking people to donate $3 million after he was found to be in "high-level breach" of the players' code over a series of controversial Instagram posts he shared earlier this year—including one declaring that gay people, among others, would go to hell if they did not repent for their sins.
Folau claimed he would use the funds to “stand up for the word of God” and fight Rugby Australia’s decision in court, and as of Sunday night had collected more than $750,000 from donors, The Guardian reports. It is expected that the money will now be refunded in full, as GoFundMe closed down the campaign this morning.
"As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity,” the organisation said in a statement to Fairfax. “While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion.
"In the days since Mr Folau's campaign launched, more than one million dollars have been donated to hundreds of other campaigns, large and small, across Australia. Those acts of kindness are the heart of GoFundMe.
"Our platform exists to help people help others."
GoFundMe reserve the authority to take down funds that are “for the legal defence of alleged crimes associated with hate, violence, harassment, bullying, discrimination, terrorism or intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, or gender identity or serious disabilities or diseases”, according to their terms of service. And while Folau had garnered a substantial amount of financial support in the days since launching his campaign, the fundraiser was also broadly criticised by members of the Australian public and media.
Rugby Australia’s chief executive Raelene Castle said that “from our perspective [GoFundMe] is a place where sick children get support, so it’s certainly not a strategy we think is appropriate”, the ABC reports. Former Wallabies teammate Drew Mitchell meanwhile blasted Folau’s decision to dispute his contract termination on a platform that’s more typically used to raise money for things like medical procedures.
Folau's contract with Rugby Australia was worth $4 million when it was terminated last month.
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