Rugby How a Rugby Star’s Homophobic Posts Got Australians Arguing About Religion

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GoFundMe shut down his page, calling it a breach of its user terms. A Christian lobbying group then began its own fund-raising drive and has raised about $1.5 million.

If there is one way to drag Australians, who pride themselves on their comfortable, easygoing nature, into talking about divisive social issues, it is for those issues to intrude onto the sports field. And several recent cases have done just that.

A documentary about Adam Goodes, an Indigenous player of Australian rules football who retired in 2015 after enduring abuse from spectators, has revived a debate about racism, and online trolling directed at Tayla Harris, another football player, over a photo showing her raw athleticism forced Australians to confront sexism and misogyny.

And then there is the case of Mr. Folau. The rugby star, 30, a former Mormon who is now an evangelical Christian, has a history of making homophobic and transphobic comments online. Last year, he wrote on Instagram that God’s plan for gay people was “HELL” unless they “repent of their sins.” He was warned by Rugby Australia, the governing body, that broadcasting such views contravened its inclusion policy.

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This year, he signed a new four-year contract with Rugby Australia worth 4 million Australian dollars, or $2.8 million, that included clauses restricting his behavior on social media. But that did not prevent him from putting up his “hell awaits you” post in April. After an investigation, Rugby Australia terminated his contract.

“When they signed Folau again, it didn’t occur to anybody that he would do exactly the same thing,” said Peter FitzSimons, a former na

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