Israel Folau social media actions lead to Contract Breach notice

Israel Folau social media actions lead to Contract Breach notice
Australia's wing Israel Folau attends the captain's run training session at the Principality stadium in Cardiff, south Wales on November 9, 2018, on the eve of their autumn international rugby union match against Wales. (Photo by GEOFF CADDICK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE -use in books subject to Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) approval (Photo credit should read GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images)

After hugely unpopular public statements from the Wallabies/New South Wales player, the recent Israel Folau social media statements has lead to a Contract Breach notice being issued by Rugby Australia.

The Rugby Australia Integrity Unit deemed that Folau had committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct, warranting termination of his employment contract. In a statement on Monday April 15, it was revealed that Israel Folau has 48 hours to accept the sanction or, have the matter referred to a Code of Conduct hearing.

Israel Folau social media actions lead to Contract Breach notice

Rugby Australia Chief Executive, Raelene Castle said: “At its core, this is an issue of the responsibilities an employee owes to their employer and the commitments they make to their employer to abide by their employer’s policies and procedures and adhere to their employer’s values.”

Since this is not the first incident for the Christian sportsman, his widely shared Instagram post has gone against the clear direction of his employer; Rugby Australia. “It was made clear to him that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action.

“All professional Rugby players in Australia are bound by the Code of Conduct and there is a process in place for any disciplinary matter. We appreciate that this particular matter will attract significant interest, but due process must be followed.”

News reports that had already stated that Folau was ‘fired’ by RA had pre-empted this process. And while the reaction from sections of the public range from vehement disdain for his opinions, to misunderstanding the strategy used – possibly, in a move to find an early release from his contract. Public antipathy to his values, and crucially for the national rugby organization ‘how that goes against those of the Sport’ is why the players future is up in the air.

Public reaction and the flow-on effect to Rugby Australia

The range of reaction from different sectors of the public has been across the board. From the ‘freedom of speech’ views, who want to protect freedoms within social media. However, many see the Israel Folau social media posts as offensive. Seen as hate-speech, homophobic and not fitting of a highly visible public figure. Which is why Raelene Castle has had little choice, but to issue the breach notice.

The CEO of the national body has been supported by many sectors of the game. Former players and regional/state stakeholders, supporters and importantly, sponsors, have objected to the posts. It has endangered contracts and agreements with backers of the game. So the fallout is building.

And now that Israel Folau looks to be wanting to fight for his status as an Australian Rugby star, the ‘process’ will be under much scrutiny. It must be congruent with employment relations, the norms of social media – especially the responsibilities, influence, and implications that all players and public figures must respect.

If not for themselves, then for the organizations who they earn a living from. Israel Folau social media statements are not only hurtful, but ‘spit in the face’ of past warnings. If the individual has not learned his lesson in the past, then the last week must be a warning to others – you take a risk, in publishing your own moral views in the public spotlight.

For Israel Folau, the possibility of not representing his country [at the Rugby World Cup] could be the fallout over his actions.

From all quarters; and with the reproach of Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika, the player must now surely, be regretting his actions. Challenging Rugby Australia in a Code of Conduct hearing, might be a conflict which the individual could lose more, than he might wish to ever gain.

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