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Joanita Wibowo

Israel Folau breaks his silence after raking in $2 million : "For those that have criticised me..."

Israel Folau breaks his silence after raking in $2 million : "For those that have criticised me..."

Israel Folau has broken his silence after his fundraising campaign was shut down this week, saying he has “no ill will” towards those who criticised the rugby player’s statement on homosexuality.

Folau’s new crowdfunding page, hosted by the Australian Christian Lobby, has raised more than $1.7 million to support his legal defence against Rugby Australia’s decision to terminate his contract in May.

And the rugby player has spoken out by sharing a message on his personal Instagram account on Wednesday morning. 

Folau wrote: “I am humbled by the support I have received from so many of you since Rugby Australia terminated my employment contract after I shared a religious message on social media. To those who have criticised me, I bear no ill will towards you. You have every right to express your own beliefs and opinions.

“I am incredibly thankful for the Australian Christian Lobby, which has not only come to my defence in the media, but generously established a website to receive donations on my behalf.”

View this post on Instagram

I am humbled by the support I have received from so many of you since Rugby Australia terminated my employment contract after I shared a religious message on social media. To those who have criticised me, I bear no ill will towards you. You have every right to express your own beliefs and opinions. To the thousands of you who donated to my GoFundMe campaign, I am forever grateful. GoFundMe’s decision to shut down my campaign proves the importance of my case; whether you share my faith or believe in my right to express it, attempts to sanction what we believe is a threat to all Australians. I am incredibly thankful for the Australian Christian Lobby, which has not only come to my defence in the media, but generously established a website to receive donations on my behalf. For those not in a position to donate, your support and prayers will make more of a difference than anything else. God bless!

A post shared by Israel Folau (@izzyfolau) on Jun 25, 2019 at 4:32pm PDT

The 30-year-old’s first fundraiser on GoFundMe was shut down on Monday after it was flagged of being “at risk” of violating the company’s policies.

The ACL’s managing director Martyn Iles said he could “not go into detail” about where the rest of the donations would go once the $3 million mark has been achieved.

“It will go to different causes that are completely consistent with the intentions of the original donors,” Iles told Deborah Knight on the Today show on Wednesday morning. 

“I am not able to go into the detail at this stage.”

Iles denied that the money would be used for personal purposes. 

“Absolutely not personal use, absolutely not the ACL,” he said.

“[The donors] bought into Israel because they see him as somebody they want to champion. They see him as somebody they identify with, and there is a great deal of trust built up there.

“That is not misplaced at all. This money will be used well and will actually end up making a difference regardless of where it goes.”

Earlier this month, Folau announced that he had launched legal proceedings with the Fair Work Commissions against Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby for breach of contract.

His lawyers said in a statement that Folau is seeking “substantial remedies from his former employers should they be found to have breached the Fair Work Act in terminating his employment”.

In May, Folau’s contract was ripped up after a Rugby Australia panel found him guilty of a “high-level breach” of the players’ code of conduct over his controversial Instagram posts, including one claiming “hell awaits” gay people.

“Rugby Australia did not choose to be in this 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 [this] outcome,” said Rugby Australia’s chief executive Raelene Castle at the time.

“People need to feel safe and welcomed in the game, regardless of their race, background or sexuality.”