Israel Folau Launches Massive Legal Case That Could “Bankrupt Australian Rugby”
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Israel Folau has launched legal proceedings against his former employers Rugby Australia over the termination of his contract, casting the action as the pursuit of his “right to religious freedom”.
The 30-year-old former Wallabies fullback said he would seek a declaration from Australia’s Fair Work Commission, an industrial relations tribunal, that his employment was terminated because of his religion.
“No Australian of any faith should be fired for practising their religion,” Folau said in a statement that confirmed his case had been lodged.
“Ours is an amazing country built on important principles, including freedom of religion.”
“A nation made up of so many different faiths and cultural backgrounds will never be truly rich unless this freedom applies to all of us.”
And Folau’s claims for damages could well bankrupt Rugby Australia and the Warrtahs, with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting the superstar full-back is seeking a £5.5 million ($10m) pay-out. He will pursue damages including the value of his contract as well as the monetary value of other lost opportunities.
Rugby Australia and New South Wales Rugby meanwhile have since released a joint statement defending their decision.
“It is important to make clear that (we) did not choose to be in a position where (we) are forced to divert significant resources to defend the ongoing legal action taken by Israel, but his action leaves the game with no choice,” it read.
“This is an issue of an employee and his obligations to his employers within the contract that he signed.”
“He was bound by a Code of Conduct for all professional players in Australia that spells out clear guidelines and obligations regarding player behaviour, including respectful use of social media.”