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Israel Folau's GoFundMe page shut down amid furore over anti-gay views

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 24/06/2019 Telegraph Sport
Israel Folau wearing a yellow shirt: Israel Folau set up the page after his A$4 million (£2.2m) contract was terminated following his posts on social media that all homosexuals would go to hell © AFP Israel Folau set up the page after his A$4 million (£2.2m) contract was terminated following his posts on social media that all homosexuals would go to hell

An online fundraising page by sacked former Wallabies full-back Israel Folau has been taken down for violating GoFundMe's terms of service, the crowdfunding platform has said.

The rugby star launched the fundraising drive last week, asking for A$3 million (£1.6m) to help towards the costs of his legal action against Rugby Australia.

On Monday, GoFundMe said it was removing Folau's campaign from its website and would refund the thousands of dollars already donated.

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"After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service," said Nicola Britton, of GoFundMe Australia.

"As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity. While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion."

Israel Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia over anti-gay tweets. © Getty Israel Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia over anti-gay tweets.

"Our platform exists to help people help others," she added.

Folau set up the page after his A$4 million (£2.2m) contract was terminated following his posts on social media that all homosexuals would go to hell.

An independent panel upheld that decision and Folau announced he was taking the case to the Fair Work Commission.

The 30-year-old was accused of greed following the launch of the fundraising drive, with ex-Australia wing Drew Mitchell heavily critical and referencing the many seriously ill people using GoFundMe to foot medical bills.

Mitchell tweeted: "You are in a fight that you chose to be in after you broke the terms of your contract, the kids below are in a fight they never wanted to be in and yet you think you deserve donations more than they do? It's no longer about religion, it's about you and your greed."

Folau would have proved one of Australia's top draws at the autumn's World Cup in Japan, but his 73-Test Wallabies career is in tatters.

(Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Former Wallabies centre Morgan Turinui posted: "Whichever side you fall on the Izzy Folau debate surely we can all see the ignominy of this."

Folau had already received more than A$750,000 (£409,000) in donations to the website, on which he had added a statement.

"My faith is the most important thing in my life," he wrote.

"I try to live my life according to the Bible and I believe it is my duty to share the word of the Bible.

"Earlier this year, I uploaded some messages from the Bible on my Instagram page. I believe that sharing the Bible is an act of love and compassion.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

"Indeed, what makes our country so wonderful is that we have such a diverse community made up of so many different cultures and values.

"But my faith defines me as a person. I do not believe that it is fair or right that I be punished for my religious beliefs.

"Rugby Australia have already said they will divert significant resources to fight me in court. Even if I win, Rugby Australia can appeal.

(Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

"My wife Maria and I have already spent over A$100,000 (£55,000) of our own money, and that was just to try and deal with Rugby Australia's internal tribunal processes.

"The money I am asking for is solely to fund the rest of my action in court.

"I know I am putting myself on the line - this action will be very costly in terms of time, money and reputation - but I do not intend to stop now.

"I have the fight of my life on my hands and every little bit will help."

MSN are empowering Women In Sport this summer. Find out more about our campaign and the charity fighting to promote the transformational and lifelong rewards of exercise for women and girls in the UK here.

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